Criminal Justice Reform has been an initiative of the previous administration in Connecticut and it looks like our new governor intends to carry on with the agenda. This is a national movement which is mostly supported by the more liberal policy makers. In Connecticut, changes have been made to almost every aspect of the judicial system. Being the President of the Bail Association of Connecticut and the owner of BailCo I’ve had much at stake with this reform, as my livelihood is providing pre-trial release (bail). In the litany of laws passed, many do not affect me professionally, but they did as a citizen.
Juveniles accused of committing crimes was one of the hot topics. Laws were passed and policies were made that limited the potential legal ramifications juveniles could face, and the definition of what a juvenile is changed after raising the age to 17. These changes have essentially made it so that there are little to no serious consequences for committing a crime. It was interesting to watch the various hearings and meetings regarding the laws. Many experts gave their opinions and produced studies supporting these changes. The opponents pointed out the potential consequences but ultimately the laws were pushed through.
It took a few years, but the criminal element eventually learned of the relaxed laws and how to use them. Many of the ramifications of these law changes are becoming painfully apparent to the citizens of Connecticut in the form of crimes like car break-ins (which have become an epidemic), and even riots in public places like the fights that took place at the malls and stores. Why the proponents of these laws are not being held accountable is a question I can’t answer. Perhaps much of it has to do with the fact that there is no easy way for the public to measure how much of an issue it has become since the court records are all sealed. I can tell you that it makes it very difficult for law enforcement to protect us from these crimes. Perhaps a child’s mind is not developed fully until 17– and some studies indicate 26– but they still need to know or be taught what is right and wrong, and that their actions have consequences.