HARTFORD – With a vote tonight by the Connecticut General Assembly’s House of Representatives, Senate Bill 880, An Act Increasing Fairness and Transparency in the Criminal Justice System, has unanimously passed both chambers of the legislature. The bill now awaits signature from Governor Ned Lamont, who has stated that he will sign it.
The bill, proposed by Lamont, reflects a campaign trail promise Lamont made to 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 Gus Marks-Hamilton:
“Prosecutors hold people’s lives and fates in their hands, yet Connecticut residents have very little information about prosecutors’ decisions. This bill’s passage is a step forward for transparency about prosecutors’ actions, and the information it will unveil is vital for ending inequities and injustices in Connecticut’s justice system. Smart Justice leaders, who are directly impacted by the justice system, have spent months calling for this prosecutorial transparency bill to pass. With this bill’s introduction and unanimous, bipartisan passage, Governor Lamont and Connecticut’s General Assembly have listened to the expertise of formerly incarcerated people to move toward a smarter justice system. Smart Justice looks forward to ensuring this bill’s promises are fulfilled, and we will continue to fight for an end to mass incarceration and the elimination of racial inequities in the justice system.”
This evening, the Connecticut General Assembly’s House of Representatives voted unanimously (148 – 0) to approve the bill. On May 28, the bill unanimously passed the Senate (35 – 0). The proposal would require the Division of Criminal Justice, which employs prosecutors, to report data, including demographic data about people accused or convicted of a crime, and about prosecutors’ actions on charging, plea deals, diversionary programs, and sentencing. The state’s Office of Policy and Management would be required to publish this information on its website annually, beginning no later than July 1, 2020.
In an earlier statewide public opinion poll of Connecticut voters, researchers with Public Policy Polling found that 72 percent of Connecticut voters, including 78 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans, and 63 percent of Independents, say that creating more transparency about prosecutors’ decisions would allow the state to create a better justice system. Two-thirds of Connecticut voters recognize racial disparities in the justice system as a compelling reason to support a bill to increase transparency about prosecutors’ decisions.
The ACLU of Connecticut’s Smart Justice campaign is grounded in the knowledge that the people closest to the problem of mass incarceration – people who were incarcerated – are closest to the solution. Together, ACLU Smart Justice Connecticut is working to usher in a new era of justice by reducing the state’s jail and prison population by 50 percent and combatting racial disparities in the criminal justice system. For more information about ACLU Smart Justice Connecticut: https://www.acluct.org/en/issues/smart-justice