The Connecticut General Assembly’s 2019 legislative session began on January 9, and the ACLU of Connecticut is pushing for the legislature to pass bills to advance smarter justice policies, immigrants’ rights, police transparency, and more. Here are just some of the issues we’ll be working on at the Capitol this year.
Elected officials are already getting to know some newly-registered ACLU of Connecticut advocates: our Smart Justice lobbyists, Anderson Curtis, Sandy LoMonico, and Gus Marks-Hamilton. Our Smart Justice team is already pushing for two groundbreaking proposals:
Anti-discrimination protections (H.B. 6921): People who are returning home after incarceration should have a fair chance at reentering society and supporting themselves and their families. In Connecticut, formerly incarcerated people face more than 600 legal and policy barriers to finding jobs, housing, education, insurance, and more. We’re advocating groundbreaking legislation to prevent discrimination against people with a criminal record in areas of housing, employment, education, and other public services and accommodations.
Prosecutorial transparency (H.B. 6711): Injustice thrives in the dark. Yet unlike in other states, Connecticut’s unelected prosecutors, who are called “state’s attorneys,” are not required to publicly disclose statistics about their decisions. We’re fighting for legislation requiring the state to collect and make public statistics about prosecutors’ decisions on charging, bail, plea bargains, convictions, and more.
Immigrants are a critical part of our state and our country. Every person, of every immigration status, has fundamental human and legal rights that deserve protection and respect.
Legal representation in immigration court (S.B. 695): In state criminal court proceedings, people are guaranteed a court-appointed lawyer if they cannot afford one. But in federal immigration court, the law does not guarantee that same basic chance at justice – even if someone is a child facing separation from their parents. As Connecticut faces an influx of immigration cases in its federal court, children and adults facing deportation do not often have a lawyer to help them understand their options and defend their rights. We’re asking the legislature to pass a law to guarantee legal representation for children facing deportation in court and for adults who are detained, facing deportation, and cannot afford an attorney.
Information is power, yet access to basic data and facts about police behavior is often controlled by (and for) police themselves.
Use of force reporting (H.B. 5922): While Connecticut law requires police to complete a report every time they fire their gun or use physical force that could cause death or serious injury to someone, the law doesn’t require police to share that information with the state, and it isn’t easily publicly available. Right now, it sometimes takes months or years for even the family members of people who were killed by police to access these basic reports. We’re calling for the legislature to pass a law to 1) require police to submit their use of force reports to the state, 2) require police to complete and submit a report for each time they chase someone with their vehicles, and 3) require the state to publicly publish data about these reports each year.
Legislators have introduced more than 4,000 bills this session, the majority of which will not move forward. All of the bills named above have been introduced and assigned numbers and committees, which means the next steps are for them to be fully written (either a committee or an individual legislator can draft a bill) and for their committees to assign them public hearing dates for members of the public to weigh in.
We’ll need civil liberties supporters to speak up for these bills. If you’re ready to get involved, make sure you’re signed up for our email alerts, so you’ll be the first to know when we need you to contact your legislators or testify in Hartford.
Of the thousands of bills introduced, on criminal justice, other promising bills include one that would create more public input for the state’s Criminal Justice Commission, which appoints prosecutors, and another requiring the state to include someone who has been directly impacted by the justice system on the Criminal Justice Commission and Board of Pardons and Parole. On marijuana, we’ll be making the case that if Connecticut legalizes marijuana, the state should take serious, meaningful steps to reinvest in communities that have been most harmed by marijuana criminalization and to eliminate the collateral consequences faced by people living with a record of marijuana arrest or conviction. If tolls come to Connecticut highways, we’re prepared to make sure the legislature doesn’t allow toll gantry license plate scanners to become lawless tools to track millions of people without cause. On immigration, legislators have resurrected last year’s bill to reduce the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor by one day to reduce people’s interactions with ICE, and we’re again supporting the effort to break the prison to deportation pipeline.