On Wednesday, January 4, state legislators returned to Hartford to begin a new legislative session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Here are five areas in which the ACLU of Connecticut will be encouraging the legislature to strengthen freedom, equality, and justice in 2017:
- Police drones can have a role in public safety, but they also have the potential to violate people's privacy. In the past year, at least three Connecticut police departments have begun using drones, but state lawmakers have not passed any laws to regulate them. We’re pushing for legislation that balances safety and privacy by requiring police to obtain a warrant before using drones to spy.
- Solitary confinement costs too much, does nothing to rehabilitate prisoners, and can exacerbate or even cause mental illness. Last year, 314 people were placed in long-term isolation in Connecticut prisons. We’re fighting for legislation that would cap the duration of solitary confinement and prohibit it altogether for vulnerable people, such as people with mental illness.
- Reforming police practices could help police and communities alike. Communities deserve police who protect and respect everyone. Police deserve to work with and for capable colleagues. To reach both of these goals, police departments must be more transparent, accessible, and accountable. State lawmakers must take action to ensure truly independent police oversight, create meaningful body and Taser camera regulations, establish better systems for people to file complaints against police departments, and more.
- Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to take and sell someone’s property without ever charging them with a crime. Taking innocent people’s assets is unacceptable and unconstitutional, but it is happening in Connecticut. From 2009 to 2013, there were more than 3,700 civil asset forfeiture cases in our state. We’re advocating for legislation to abolish civil asset forfeiture. Under this proposal, the government would only be allowed to confiscate property that was related to a criminal conviction.
- Defending progress. In the past decade alone, Connecticut has worked to end our state's death penalty, expand rights for transgender residents, secure marriage equality for LGBT couples, create a Second Chance Society for young people who have made mistakes, regulate police “stingrays,” and more. We will be ready to stand up for civil rights and liberties, whenever and if ever they are under attack.
Accomplishing this to-do list won’t be easy, but the ACLU of Connecticut is ready to make it happen. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, and stay tuned to our website for more information throughout the session. Together with our supporters, the ACLU-CT is ready to make change.