In anticipation of next week’s Judiciary Committee hearing on public safety in Connecticut, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are trying to outdo each other with, in my opinion, increasingly unrealistic proposals.
Republican lawmakers called Thursday for a special session of the legislature this fall to pass tougher criminal laws in response to the triple slaying in Cheshire in July. Meanwhile, the Democratic president of the state Senate said the entire Board of Pardons and Paroles should be dismantled and replaced with criminal justice professionals.
Williams, the president of the Senate, said probably the funniest thing I’m going to hear all day:
“It looks like a rubber-stamp, perfunctory process instead of a deliberative process,” Williams said. “It’s an ancient process. It’s a per diem, part-time basis that does not provide the protections our communities need.”
Rubber-stamp? Perfunctory? With all due respect sir, have you had any dealings with the Board? I have. I can tell you it is anything but. The reporting by the press seems to indicate that the parole board meets with all its members in Hawaiian shirts, sipping mojitos, sitting on lounge chairs while they throw parole applications in the air and grant parole to those applications that fall on the ground and deny parole to those that fall on the table. My experience has been that it has taken a lot to be granted parole. Parole packages are put together by full-time employees of the Board and forwarded to the panel members. They look at transcripts, disciplinary history, criminal records (heck, they go back 10 years to see if an inmate had a violent offense conviction), programs completed, type of offense, facts surrounding the offense, police reports…
They do seem to agree on making “home invasions” a violent offense. My thoughts on that have been well documented and I will just say that I disagree with the proposal and the same result can be achieved through existing laws.
Some are also still pushing for “three strikes” laws and I can only hope that the legislators do a quick Google search, like I did, for studies on the effectiveness of three strikes laws and realize that they don’t work. They also want to shore up the “persistent offender” statute, part of which was struck down this week.
I’m also disappointed by the lack of any speakers from the other side of the courtroom at this judiciary committee hearing. But that’s to be expected. It’s understandable that the defense bar wants to lay low on this one, but that does not serve the interests of our clients and of the community at large. When everyone who has the power to change legislation in Connecticut or influence that change is chomping at the bit to go medieval, someone needs to be the voice of reason and urge people to take a step back and think before they act.
How many times can one repeat that knee-jerk legislation makes the worst legislation? I’ll give it another shot.