The Connecticut General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session ended on May 4. We fought every step of the way for liberation, justice, and equity. This was also a hard year, with many politicians intent on doubling down on harming Black, Latinx, and trans youth.
In bad news:
- Criminalizing youth: The legislature passed some bad bills, including H.B. 5417, that prioritize policing and prisons over the programs and services that actually make our communities healthy, safe, and strong.
- More work to do: Legislators did not seize their chances to hold State’s Attorneys accountable, stop police from lying to children during interrogations, or pass the Connecticut Voting Rights Act.
There were also bright spots, not all of which show up in the bills that ultimately passed or didn’t.
In good news:
- Abortion access: Governor Lamont is expected to sign H.B. 5414, which would shield people seeking and providing abortion care in Connecticut from the legal harms of bans in other states. We were proud to advocate for this bill with our friends at Planned Parenthood Votes CT and Pro-Choice CT.
- Smart Justice: The legislature passed H.B. 5248, which would require job licensure boards to look at people as individuals when evaluating job license applicants with criminal records. Instead of relying on blanket bans based on stereotypes, H.B. 5248 would require job licensure boards to look at whether a person's record was directly relevant to the job at hand, and it would require them to consider how much time has passed since the person's arrest or conviction. Smart Justice advocated hard for this bill all session, and it awaits action from Governor Lamont.
- PROTECT Act: The legislature passed S.B. 459, which takes significant steps toward ending solitary confinement in Connecticut and that starts to create independent oversight of the Department of Correction. Our friends with Stop Solitary CT have fought for this bill for years, and Smart Justice was proudly in solidarity with them. The bill awaits action from Governor Lamont.
- Prison debt: The legislature’s budget implementor includes a provision that would partially end prison debt. Under this bill, the state would no longer be allowed to collect prison debt money from some people who receive settlements and awards in lawsuits, including lawsuits from people harmed by the Department of Correction. But the bill completely excludes some people based on their type of conviction, has different rules for people who are currently incarcerated, and still allows the state to collect prison debt money from anyone who inherits money from a loved one, leaves an inheritance after their own death, or wins money from something like an award or the lottery. Prison debt is wrong, full stop, and it needs to completely end. The budget implementer provision is a big step forward, and other forms of prison debt remain – including the kind faced by one of our clients, Ms. Beatty. Our lawsuit seeking to end prison debt once and for all continues.
- Protections for trans health: The legislature’s budget implementer includes a provision that protects people seeking and providing gender-affirming healthcare in Connecticut from the legal harms of bans on transgender healthcare in other states. As trans youth and adults face attacks across the country – including in Connecticut – this was a welcome piece of good news.
Bigger than bills is the fact that Smart Justice was at the Capitol every single day of session fighting to make legislators listen to justice-impacted people. That solidarity is our impact. Every time legislators voted about whether to invest in people instead of prisons and policing, Smart Justice was in the hallway, asking them to truly see and listen to the people they could choose to help instead of harm.
Heading out of the legislative session and into the summer, elected officials are turning their eyes toward their campaigns. As they do, the ACLU of Connecticut is ready to keep fighting for a future where our communities are safe, healthy, and free.