HARTFORD — The public got a chance Monday to weigh in on three proposals that would change Connecticut’s criminal justice system in very different ways.
One proposal would change which sex offenders would have to continue to appear on the sex offender registry; another proposes a constitutional amendment on pretrial release and detention, and a third would reduce a state sentence for a misdemeanor offense by one day to prevent more severe immigration consequences.
The Sentencing Commission is preparing to make its recommendations to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the General Assembly for the start of the 2018 legislative session.
The testimony from about 30 members of the public was emotional at times.
Cindy Prizio, executive director of Connecticut for One Standard of Justice, was unhappy with the recommendations regarding the sex offender registry because it would not apply to all sex offenders.
The proposal would give those on the registry an opportunity to petition to shorten their registration period or apply for removal from the public registry. In order to do so the registrant would have to show that they have reduced their risk to the community. Under the new system a person could be on the registry for shorter periods than under the current system, and others would be on for longer periods.
“This draft proposal is steeped in feel good laws,” Prizio said. “I don’t think you needed to meet for two years to get to it.”
She said her group would never support it.
“We are not a disposable people and we are fighting for our rights,” Prizio said.
Thomas Ullman, a former public defender from New Haven, took issue without Prizio’s stance on the issue.
“I find it hard to believe every member of the organization would be opposed to legislation that would aid all the future registrants as well as those in the past who have no ability to get off the registry at this time,” Ullman said. “The extreme position you have would realistically never have the support of our legislature at this time.”
He said taking such an extreme position means 300 to 500 people will have no way to get off the registry.
Prizio said she understands this is politics and “you give a little to get a little,” but as a “victims advocate you don’t want to do harm to your victims.”
She said her son can’t be with his family and he’s isolated. She said he had more social support in prison. She said suicide and homelessness are very real for this population.
The Sentencing Commission also re-litigated the issue of bail reform and money bail.
The General Assembly and Malloy thought they revised the bail system and got rid of cash bail for most non-violent misdemeanors, but they recently had to revise part of the law that went into effect on July 1. They eliminated cash bail again as part of the budget Malloy signed on Oct. 31.
The Sentencing Commission is exploring a constitutional amendment on pre-trial release and detention that would permit denial of release for high-risk defendants and deny detention of defendants for lack of funds to secure a bail bond.
The bail industry universally opposed it.
Andrew Marocchini, of the Bail Association of Connecticut, said Connecticut doesn’t have a problem with indigents being held pre-trial.
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