HARTFORD – The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s campaign for Smart Justice released new public opinion polling today that shows strong support across the political spectrum for legislation to increase transparency about prosecutors’ actions.
The research, conducted online and by telephone by Public Policy Polling between March 28 and 29, included 621 registered Connecticut voters across the state. Forty-three percent of participants identified as Democrats, 28 percent as Republicans, and 29 percent as Independents. Respondents were asked about their views on a Connecticut bill to create more transparency about prosecutors’ decisions.
Senate Bill 880, proposed by Governor Ned Lamont, would require the Division of Criminal Justice, which employs prosecutors, to report data about prosecutors’ decisions each year to the state, which would be required to publish that information. The bill had a public hearing in the Judiciary Committee on March 25 and awaits action in that committee.
Key poll findings include:
- 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.
- 64 percent of Connecticut voters, including 70 percent of those who voted for Donald Trump, say they would support a bill to increase transparency about prosecutors’ work.
- 79 percent of Connecticut voters say the amount of power that prosecutors wield is a compelling reason to support a bill to increase transparency about prosecutors’ decisions. The majority (53 percent) of voters see this as a very compelling reason to support the bill.
- 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.
“Connecticut voters have spoken, and they want the public to have more information about prosecutors’ decisions,” said Gus Marks-Hamilton, Smart Justice field organizer for the ACLU of Connecticut. “Smart Justice leaders have been advocating for legislation to increase transparency about prosecutors’ actions, and the majority of Connecticut voters stand with us. Prosecutors are some of the most powerful people in the justice system, and their decisions directly affect the lives of tens of thousands of people in our state every day. Connecticut voters recognize that with prosecutors’ enormous power comes a responsibility for them to be transparent and open with the public, and voters know our state should be collecting and reporting information about what prosecutors do. This is a clear call to action for Connecticut’s legislature to pass S.B. 880 in its strongest possible form.”
“More transparency about prosecutors’ decisions is extremely important to understanding and strengthening the state’s response to domestic violence as it relates to the criminal justice system,” said Liza Andrews, director of public policy and communications for the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We urge the legislature to support S.B. 880.”
“Transparency and accountability from prosecutors is important to both victims and advocates. Transparency in the criminal justice system will not only help defendants, but can allow victims of sexual assault and advocates to ascertain how the state moves forward with sexual assault cases and how the criminal justice system responds to victims of sexual assault,” said Lucy Nolan, director of policy and public relations for the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
“Data, and reporting of that data, is an important step in making sure our justice system is transparent and fair. Examining data will allow our communities to ensure prosecutors are making decisions about charges, diversion, plea deals, transfers to adult court, and other issues fairly, and to hold them accountable when the data highlights concerns. Other sectors of the system already must collect and report data, and it makes sense that prosecutors should collect and report data as well,” said Christina Quaranta, deputy director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance.
In its current form, Senate Bill 880 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, pretrial detention, bail, plea deals, diversionary programs, and sentencing. A public report and analysis would be made available each year. The ACLU of Connecticut also encourages the legislature to strengthen the bill by requiring the state to also collect information about juvenile cases; prosecutors’ contact with victims; and stronger privacy protections for both victims and people accused or convicted of a crime.