As we close the book on 2021, we’re ready to look ahead to 2022. Here (in no particular order) is what the ACLU of Connecticut is looking toward in court, in communities, and during the legislative session (which will be a short session this year, running from February until early May):
Under the leadership of our friends and partners with the Community First Coalition, we’re working in solidarity with youth, parents, educators, and youth advocates to push for Connecticut to invest in counselors, not cops, in schools.
Friend v. Gasparino
On December 10, 2021, we were in court for oral arguments in our appeal of Friend v. Gasparino, a case in which the right to publish information about the police is at stake alongside the right to equitable bail following arrest. People must be able to speak truth to power by protesting the police, and we’re waiting for a decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirming those rights.
Protecting people from police deception
With our friends at the Innocence Project, we’ll be advocating for the legislature to pass a law to prevent police from using deceptive practices to extract false confessions from innocent people, including children.
Protecting trans youth
In Soule v. CIAC, a case that seeks to undermine trans students’ rights to compete in school sports, we and the national ACLU continue to defend trans student athletes. The plaintiffs in the case have appealed to the Second Circuit, and we (and many, many, many friends of the court) have weighed in to tell the court to protect trans students’ abilities to live their truths in school, including in sports.
Reallocate money from policing
At its core, any question about policing in Connecticut needs to start from one question: instead of spending millions of dollars each year on policing, which most harms Black and Latinx people in our state, where could our state and towns invest this money instead? We will continue to advocate for policies that reduce the role, responsibilities, and size of policing – and that create healthy and safe communities by moving money out of policing and into the things that help people survive, like housing, healthcare, food, jobs, and education.
None of these efforts will be easy, especially because so many are struggling against entrenched systems that perpetuate systemic racism against Black and Latinx people.
This year, Connecticut voters will decide whether our state should adopt early voting, through a question that will appear on November’s ballot. Laws that restrict access to the ballot – like Connecticut’s current prohibition on early voting – most dilute the voting power of Black voters, as well as and including voters with disabilities, voters with inflexible work schedules, voters who lack childcare, voters who lack transportation, and many others for whom voting on a single Tuesday in November is impossible. We’ve advocated for more than a decade for early voting, absentee voting, and other commonsense policies to improve access to the ballot in Connecticut.
Clark v. Quiros
In 2020, we were honored to join this lawsuit as the new lawyers for Veronica-May Clark, who has been fighting for years to make the Connecticut Department of Correction provide her with the gender-affirming medical and mental healthcare she needs. At stake in this case is the right of transgender people who are incarcerated to access gender-affirming medical care. We will know in early 2022 if we are heading toward a trial.
Massimino v. Benoit
People have the right to observe public servants and public buildings that are in plain view from the street, but Waterbury police didn’t seem to get the memo when they arrested our client for exercising that right. We are moving the case forward in the trial court and look forward to victory in 2022.
State’s Attorneys accountability
Prosecutors are some of the most powerful and least accountable actors in the criminal legal system. Although they hold people’s lives and fates in their hands, and despite the systemic racism that means Black and Latinx people are most harmed by the criminal legal system, there are no statewide uniform policies giving prosecutors guidelines and guardrails for their power. State’s Attorneys even serve eight-year terms with no external performance evaluations by the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) during that time (eight years is longer than the term lengths of state’s attorneys in 47 states, the Chief State’s Attorney, the Deputy Chief State’s Attorneys, and public defenders). We’ll be advocating at the legislature for a law that brings State’s Attorneys more in line with basic oversight requirements required of other actors in the criminal legal system, and that starts using data to end biased and discriminatory patterns in State’s Attorneys’ decisions across our state.
Freedom from collateral consequences of a record
People reentering society after incarceration face more than 500 legal and policy barriers to being truly included in the world. In 2022, Smart Justice will keep up the fight to end blanket bans that exclude entire groups of people from employment based solely on record and not individual assessments. This bill would require private employers to do the same thing that the state currently requires in its hiring practices. Under this bill, potential employers would need to look at job seekers as individuals, based on skills and qualifications and whether their record was in any way relevant to the job they’re applying for.
Health and safety for incarcerated people
At the legislature, we will continue to advocate in partnership with our friends at Stop Solitary Connecticut and others for the creation of independent oversight of the DOC (something the legislature approved in 2021 but Governor Lamont chose to veto) and to end the cruel and unusual punishment of solitary confinement. In the courts, we’re keeping up our fight with our friends at Disability Rights Connecticut in Disability Rights Connecticut v. DOC, a case that seeks to end solitary confinement of people with mental illness in Connecticut’s state-run prisons and jails.
Olson v. Mayorkas
The decision to become a parent is deeply personal, and no school or job should be able to interfere with that choice. Yet the U.S. military service academies all ban parenthood among cadets, thereby forcing students to choose between parenthood and their degrees and careers. On behalf of a former cadet, and together with the national ACLU and Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, we’re suing U.S. Coast Guard officials to end the Coast Guard Academy’s ban on parenthood.
None of these efforts will be easy, especially because so many are struggling against entrenched systems that perpetuate systemic racism against Black and Latinx people. As our state heads toward an election season, we also know that while some politicians will especially try to vilify and double down on harm of Black and Latinx youth, people who are living with a criminal record, and transgender youth, our state must commit to moving forward, not backward into more discrimination. As an organization, we will also be taking time to envision the world and Connecticut we want to see, by creating a strategic plan for the next three years and expanding to have a truly statewide presence.
We’re ready for 2022, and we hope you’ll join us.