HARTFORD – During the last minutes of the Connecticut General Assembly’s legislative session, the Senate passed House Bill 6921, An Act Establishing a Council on the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record, on consent. In May, the House of Representatives passed the bill (108 – 37). The bill now awaits action from Governor Ned Lamont.
The bill, introduced by Representative Robyn Porter, was championed by the ACLU of Connecticut’s Smart Justice campaign, an initiative led by people who have been directly impacted by the justice system.
The following is a reaction from ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice field organizer Anderson Curtis:
“Thousands of people and families, and every town in Connecticut, suffer the consequences of discrimination against people who are trying to reenter society after arrest or incarceration. Connecticut will thrive if the state ensures that people who have earned the chance to reenter society are able to support ourselves and our communities, rather than be stuck with a scarlet letter for the rest of our lives. The Council on the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record will be a pipeline for ideas for Connecticut to make thoughtful, strategic decisions about how to end discrimination against people on the basis of their criminal record. The Council will be the first mandated by state law to include a person directly impacted by the justice system, and it will be required to meet at least three times in communities around the state, creating a critical space for people most affected by the problems of mass incarceration to have a say about our own futures and lives. With this bill’s passage, Connecticut’s General Assembly has listened to the expertise of Smart Justice leaders to move toward a smarter justice system. Smart Justice looks forward to working with the Council on the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record to continue the effort to ensure Connecticut invests in people, not incarceration.”
H.B. 6921, originally established as An Act Concerning Discrimination Based on a Person’s Criminal History, was amended in the House of Representatives to instead establish the Council on the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record. The amended bill is the version that passed both the House and Senate and that now awaits action from Governor Lamont. It would:
- Establish the Council on the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record to study discrimination faced by people in Connecticut living with a criminal record.
- Charge the Council with studying the areas in which people living with a criminal record face discrimination, including the areas of employment, housing, public education, public accommodations, insurance, credit transactions, public programs and services, and economic development programs.
- Require the Council to make legislative recommendations to expand the scope of Connecticut’s anti-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of a criminal record.
- Include on the Council the Labor Committee chairpersons; undersecretary of the Office of Policy and Management Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division; the commissioners of the Departments of Correction, Labor, and Consumer Protection; at least one justice-impacted person; and representatives from the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, New Haven Legal Assistance Association Reentry Clinic, and other organizations.
Currently, people in Connecticut with a criminal record, including people who are returning home from incarceration, on parole, or on probation, face more than 600 legal barriers to supporting themselves and their families. In a September 2018 statewide opinion poll of Connecticut voters, researchers with Benenson Strategy Group found that 74 percent of Connecticut voters support the legislature passing a law prohibiting formerly incarcerated people from being discriminated against due to their criminal record when it comes to things like housing, employment, education, and insurance. In addition, 82 percent of Connecticut voters, including 92 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents, and 71 percent of Republicans, agreed that “[p]eople who have been convicted of a crime can turn their lives around and become productive members of our community if they can get the right kind of help.”