I am the President of the Bail Association of Connecticut (BAC). I am here to provide testimony with regard to the potential legislative proposal related to a proposed Constitutional Amendment on Pretrial Release and Detention.
Our association was established in 2008 and represents the 95 small businesses employing over 1,000 Connecticut residents. Our membership includes, Surety Bail Agents licensed by the Department of Insurance, Professional Bail Agents & Bail Enforcement Agents licensed by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Insurance Company Representatives and Surety Bail Companies and their employees.
This proposed potential legislative proposal is yet another attempt to rehash issues previously identified by Governor Malloy in his November 5, 2015 letter to the Sentencing Commission requesting examination of Connecticut’s current bail bond system and the possibility for its reform. These issues have been studied and addressed during the last two sessions extensively and we do not believe that the data examined during this period demonstrates the need to further explore the proposed potential legislative item.
It is important to note, that the BAC appreciates the concerns raised by the governor and those of the Sentencing Commission and its Pretrial Release & Detention Advisory Group and have appreciated the opportunity to work with you during you previous study. We welcome the opportunity to continue to do so and stand ready as to assist in ensuring that non-violent, low level offenders are not held behind bars simply because they cannot afford to post bail.
However, we believe and have proven unquestionably through thorough review of the available state data, comparison of our state’s current system to many others, and independent research conducted by the BAC, that rather than pursuing changes within the state’s Constitution, state statute and judicial practice, that the Sentencing Commission should seek to supplement our current system to assist the few identified arrestees that cannot secure pre-trial release. Specifically, we welcome the opportunity to study such assistance programs as the recently enacted PA 17-145 directed the commission to do in consultation with the Office of Policy and Management and our association.
Through our research and examination of available state data, we discovered and previously shared with the commission, that our current system of pretrial release could be considered one of the best in the country. Connecticut currently has a hybrid pretrial release system, already incorporating renditions of all forms of release currently available. We have a very low rate of failures to appear (FTA) compared to the national average of 18%, whereas Connecticut’s average is between 8% and 13%.
Connecticut citizens accused of crimes are given multiple second chances and each arrestee has a minimum of four different authorities review their case in an effort to use the least restrictive form of release possible. Additionally, arrestees have opportunities for their bond to be modified after arraignment.
Data collected on April 1, 2016 from the Department of Correction and Judicial Branch websites, demonstrates that there are not a large amount of non-violent, low level offenders being incarcerated at high levels due to their ability to post bail after you consider their criminal records.
This proposed potential legislative proposal to amend the Constitution is completely unnecessary and unwarranted considering the data previously examined by the commission. It also raises significant issues regarding the 8th Amendment and the very fabric of our nation. States which have enacted similar amendments are now in multiple lawsuits. Further it would create a system like Washington D.C. that holds 111% more pre-trial defendants then Connecticut’s current system – which again is among the best performing in the nation. Finally, it could also possibly have an immense financial impact similar to the other states that have instituted similar amendments.
Ultimately, the logic behind this type of change truly needs reconsideration. It is pitting different groups of people against one another under the guise of equality. Connecticut has a very robust pretrial justice system which comes at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. We suggest that a review of the many programs available be conducted before such an aggressive legislative proposal is pursued. Such a study could result in findings of more effective programs for defendants and possible savings to the state’s taxpayers.
In closing, if what the state is arresting people for is causing the underlying, unfair issues for some then perhaps it is unfair for all arrested and the commission should review and propose changes to the law or criminal procedure for reform.
I thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today, I welcome any questions that you may have and our association stands ready to continue to work with the commission.