HARTFORD -- Governor Ned Lamont has introduced legislation to increase transparency from prosecutors in Connecticut. The bill, S.B. 880, “An Act Increasing Fairness and Transparency in the Criminal Justice System,” reflects a recommendation from Lamont’s criminal justice policy transition team, as well as a campaign trail promise that Lamont made to the ACLU of Connecticut’s Smart Justice campaign. Gus Marks-Hamilton, Smart Justice field organizer for the ACLU of Connecticut, had the following reaction to Lamont’s introduction of the proposed legislation:
“Prosecutors are some of the most powerful people in the criminal justice system. They are government employees who hold people’s lives and fates in their hands, but there is very little available data about the decisions Connecticut prosecutors make. Creating more transparency about prosecutors’ work would allow everyone in Connecticut to create a more equitable, efficient, and smart justice system. Everyone affected by the criminal justice system – people who are accused or convicted of a crime, their families, victims of crime and their families, taxpayers who pay prosecutors’ paychecks and the costs of incarceration, judges, and more – should have more information about the work state’s attorneys do. We applaud Governor Lamont for listening to justice-impacted people by introducing this legislation, and we look forward to working with his office and the legislature to advocate for this bill’s passage into law.”
As introduced, the Governor’s proposal, S.B. 880, would:
- Require the state Office of Policy and Management (OPM) present to the Criminal Justice Commission on prosecutorial data annually, beginning not later than July 1, 2020. This presentation would be published annually on OPM’s website
- Require OPM to annually collect data, disaggregated to ensure anonymity, about: demographics of people accused or convicted of crimes; charging; bail, bond, and pretrial determinations; sentencing, including length of imprisonment, conditions of probation or parole, diversionary program offers, and restitution requirements
- Establish a pilot program for legal representation at parole revocation hearings
Connecticut’s Division of Criminal Justice, which oversees prosecutors in the state, currently has funding to create a digital case management system, which would provide the basis of the data collection and reporting included in Governor Lamont’s proposed legislation. The Governor’s proposed budget includes continuing that funding allocation.
Recently, Florida passed legislation requiring state prosecutors to release data about their decisions, and Cook County (containing Chicago), Illinois; New York County, New York; and Santa Clara County, California, have released racial demographic data from prosecutors’ decisions.
For a national ACLU report about prosecutorial transparency: https://www.aclu.org/report/unlocking-black-box
For the text of the Governor’s proposed legislation: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=LCO&which_year=2019&bill_num=4526