Senate Votes to Change Count of Prisoners for Legislative Redistricting

The State Senate approved a bill on Wednesday 35 to 1 that will change the way that incarcerated individuals are counted when determining state legislative districts.  Using the current formula, Connecticut counts prisoners in the district where they are incarcerated. The bill will change this practice so that prisoners are instead counted in their last place of residence before being incarcerated.  This bill is particularly timely as the state prepares to redraw its legislative districts this year. The next time the districts will be redrawn is in 2031.  Individuals who are serving a life sentence in the prisons will be

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A Year Without Jury Trials

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After more than a year without jury trials in the state of Connecticut, lawyers and legal observers warn that the effects of the delay will far outlast the pandemic.  Already hundreds of defendants, convicted of no crime, have sat in pretrial detention for the past year – some held for bail amounts of as little as $1485 – as many others are released back into their communities to await trials that may not come for years. Witnesses have moved, memories have faded, and in some cases, victims of sexual assault share neighborhoods with their alleged perpetrators.  Criminal jury trials can

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Legislators Debate Solutions as Towns Report an Upturn in Car Thefts

A rise in car thefts in Connecticut suburbs has police chiefs and some legislators calling for greater punishments for the offending youths, even as others say that harsher penalties alone won’t fix the problem. Mike Finkelstein, the police chief in East Lyme, said he’s seen an increase in motor vehicle thefts in the town over the last few years.   Finkelstein said that the majority of the break-ins he’d seen in East Lyme involved cars that were left unlocked. Thieves would enter the cars and steal credit cards left inside the vehicles, or simply get in the driver’s seat and take

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As Advocates Press for an End to High-Priced Prison Calls, State Officials Warn of Budget Costs

After Diane Lewis’ son went to prison at the age of 17, she said, the cost of prison phone calls started to overshadow everything else. “It wasn’t long before the utilities were being cut off, the gas was being cut off, I was late on the rent,” said Lewis, who is also the communications’ director at the Voices of Women of Color, a for-profit political advocacy firm in Hartford. In a public hearing on Monday, Lewis said that she even skipped meals so that she could talk to her son.  Lewis was one of several individuals who submitted testimony on

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Former Prisoners, Staff, Activists Testify on Connecticut’s Use of Solitary

As a number of former prisoners, activists, Department of Correction staff and ministers urged the Connecticut legislature to eliminate solitary confinement, Department of Correction Commissioner Angel Quiros asked instead for the time to lead the agency through a shift in culture. In a public hearing on Monday, a number of former prisoners testified on Senate Bill 1059, which would limit the use of isolated confinement and restraints, and would forbid the use of solitary on individuals with a diagnosed mental health condition. Daryl McGraw, who spent 10 years in Connecticut prisons, testified about his experiences in solitary confinement. “I’m very

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Legislation and Lawsuit Take Aim At Solitary Confinement in Connecticut Prisons

Correction Officers say that they need tools like solitary confinement to maintain their control over inmates — and there are cases where Kevnesha Boyd agrees this is true — but only, she says, because the culture of the state’s Department of Correction emphasizes the use of force over rehabilitation.  Boyd, a counselor who worked in the state’s Department of Correction for four years, says the things she witnessed handling intake at New Haven Correctional Center ultimately drove her to leave her job. “It started to eat me up, because it’s just like traumatic event after traumatic event,” she said.  Boyd,

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‘Conviction Integrity Unit’ Proposed to Investigate and Overturn Wrongful Convictions

In what the administration calls an effort to strengthen public confidence in the criminal justice system, Gov. Ned Lamont has set aside funding, in his budget announced on Wednesday, to establish a specialized unit to investigate and overturn potential wrongful convictions. The Governor’s budget directs $363,382 to fund a paralegal, a prosecutor and a police inspector who would make up a “Conviction Integrity Unit” to be run out of the State’s Attorney’s Office.  The program would join 79 other units like this across the country, six of them on a state level, that have together exonerated 151 people.  Chief State’s

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Advocates on Domestic Violence Plan for Life after COVID

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The Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence is proposing legislation that would allow victims of domestic violence to apply for a restraining order online even after the current state of emergency to limit the spread of COVID-19 is lifted. Liza Andrews, director of public policy and communications at the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that the organization plans to present the legislation to the Judiciary Committee in January. Advocates for victims of domestic violence say that the ability to file restraining orders online during the pandemic has been a great help to their clients.  Karen Foley O’Connor, executive director at

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Isolation, Pepper Spray, Restraints Raise Concerns for Youth at York Correctional

A report released Tuesday revealed the use of chemical agents, restraints and extended periods of isolation on young women with significant mental health needs housed in York Correctional Institute in Niantic. The report, which came from the Office of the Child Advocate, said that the agency was “deeply concerned” about these methods of control and recommended “immediate cessation” of the practices and a review by independent mental health experts.  Officers at the facility used chemical agents five times on young women between the ages of 18 and 21; three of those incidents occurred in the mental health unit. In one

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Surveying Traffic Stops in Southeast Connecticut

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Suburban towns usually have more traffic stops than urban centers, said Ken Barone, a project manager at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University. “It simply because of the needs in the department. In cities like New London there is a significantly higher call volume, so officers do not have the time to do traffic enforcement,” said Barone who has managed Connecticut’s traffic stop data for seven years. “The other thing is leadership, some police chiefs hammer on traffic enforcement.” During a ride along in July, Officer Kevin Roche of the Old Lyme police department

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