The work to create equity, justice, and freedom is never ending. Here's what the ACLU of Connecticut has been striving toward in the first half of 2023.
ACLU of Connecticut Spring/Summer Newsletter 2023
Meet the people fighting to end prison debt
"It's not just about me."
When people finish their prison sentence, their “debt” to society is supposed to be paid. Yet under Connecticut’s cruel prison debt law, the state charges people $249 for each day they are incarcerated.
The state charges people $249 for each day they are incarcerated.
This debt follows people for decades, decimating inheritances from deceased loved ones, proceeds from lawsuits, and, ultimately, anything a person leaves upon their death. Because of systemic racism, this disproportionately harms Black and Latinx people in Connecticut. In Beatty v Lamont, the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut represents three incredible people who are fighting to end prison debt in our state, for themselves and for thousands of other people who are at risk of having their or their loved one’s possessions taken by the state. In April, we filed an amended complaint and added new plaintiffs to the case.
In April, Natasha Tosado and Doug Johnson joined Teresa Beatty in the fight to end prison debt in Connecticut.
Wrapping up the 2023 legislative session
The ACLU of Connecticut approached the legislative session with ambitious goals.
The ACLU of Connecticut approached the 2023 legislative session with ambitious goals to improve access to the ballot box, begin holding prosecutors accountable, and protect children from police lying and threats. When the gavel struck at the end of the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2023 session, we had testified on more than 130 pieces of legislation, and all four of our top priority bills passed.
*Protecting kids from police deception
Children should be safe and protected everywhere, including if they are facing an interrogation with police. Yet it has been legal in our state for police to lie to and threaten people, including children, to coerce false confessions. After years of effort from us and the Innocence Project, the legislature passed a bill to ban police from using deceptive interrogation tactics against people under 18 years old. This new law will go into effect on October 1, 2023.
*Connecticut Voting Rights Act
Every voter should have equal access to the ballot box, without intimidation or racist barriers. With our coalition partners, including the NAACP LDF, we led the effort to pass the Connecticut Voting Rights Act (CTVRA), which makes democracy more accessible, especially for Black and Latinx voters, by strengthening protections against voting discrimination. The CTVRA will go into effect on July 1, 2023, becoming the most comprehensive state-level voting rights act and setting a new standard for voting access across the country.
Connecticut voters are busy, and we need flexibility to be able to vote at the time that works for us. For more than a decade, the ACLU of Connecticut and, more recently, the ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC, have pushed for Connecticut voters to have the chance to vote early. That work culminated this session, when Governor Lamont signed into law a bill that creates early voting in Connecticut for all elections or primaries held on or after January 1, 2024.
No-Excuse Absentee Voting
Absentee voting makes the ballot box more accessible for all voters, especially people who are elderly, disabled, workers, or parents. After years of effort from us and our allies, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill that gives Connecticut voters the chance to decide whether our state Constitution should be changed to allow every voter the option to vote absentee, also known as “no-excuse absentee voting.” So, the November 2024 ballot will include a question: “Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to permit the General Assembly to allow each voter to vote by absentee ballot?" The ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC is ready to educate and inspire voters to support it.
Abortion is healthcare, and abortion is a human right. We were proud to be in solidarity with our friends at Pro-Choice CT, Planned Parenthood Votes! CT, and more in supporting bills to advance reproductive freedom and maternal health, including H.B. 6820, which aims to protect abortion providers in Connecticut from lawsuits by other states for simply providing abortion care, and S.B. 3, which protects people’s sensitive health information from abuse and exploitation by “crisis pregnancy centers” (also known as CPCs).
Opportunity for justice-impacted people
Smart Justice was proud to be in solidarity with our friends at Stop Solitary CT, the Yale Transitions Clinic and more in successfully passing legislation to ensure everyone leaving prison in Connecticut has a state ID (critical for accessing jobs, housing, and programs and services) and to allow parole hearings for people who were under 21 years old at the time they were sentenced (giving more youth a chance at hope).
*ACLU of Connecticut priority bill
What will early voting look like?
A new law creates early voting in Connecticut for all elections or primaries held on or after January 1, 2024.
For more than a decade, the ACLU of Connecticut and, more recently, the ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC, have pushed for Connecticut voters to have the chance to vote early. That work culminated this session, when Governor Lamont signed into law a bill that creates early voting in Connecticut for all elections or primaries held on or after January 1, 2024.
Early voting in Connecticut will consist of:
- For general elections: 14 days of early voting, including weekends, beginning in the 30 days before Election Day, with early voting locations open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the last Tuesday and Thursday before the election. Each municipality would have at least one designated early voting polling location, established by the local registrar of voters, and municipalities of more than 20,000 people would have the option to establish additional early voting locations.
- For non-presidential primary elections: seven days of early voting prior to a primary (except presidential primaries)
- For special elections and presidential primaries: four days of early voting prior to a special election or presidential primary.
Every day, Smart Justice is working for a freer, safer, healthier Connecticut.
Smart Justice is a campaign to end mass incarceration and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, led by Smart Justice leaders – advocates who have been directly harmed by the criminal legal system. Smart Justice was at the Capitol day in and day out this year, fighting for a healthier, freer Connecticut. We lobbied for bills to increase access to education, workers’ rights, children’s rights, housing justice, and more, in addition to prosecutorial accountability and banning police deceptive interrogations of children.
Defend the right to learn and read
Book challenges are on the rise, in Connecticut and across the country.
The right to read and learn is fundamental, and public libraries are central to our abilities to explore ideas, encounter new perspectives, and learn about the world. Books by and about the history and cultures of Black and Brown, LGBTQ+ people, women, and other people whom the government has marginalized benefit all of us, including youth.
But right now, the fight to ban books focusing on race, gender, and sexuality from school and public libraries has escalated, across the country and here in Connecticut.
If you’re facing a book challenge in your local public school or library, you can push back for freedom to learn and against censorship.
We are comprised of three nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations: the ACLU of Connecticut, a 501(c)(4) organization which does legislative and organizing advocacy work; the ACLU Foundation of Connecticut, a 501(c)(3) which does litigation and public education work; and the ACLU of Connecticut Rise PAC, a 527 organization which builds the necessary relationships, public awareness, public narratives, and pressure felt by politicians. Full funding for our work is vital to achieving wins like the ones highlighted above.