Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy recently announced in a proposed policy on bail reform and juvenile justice that he would divert thousands of people aged 18 to 20 from the adult to that juvenile corrections system. He said he wants to consider other options to handle those under 25 who commit less-serious offenses. Roughly 11,000 people between the ages of 18 and 20 were arrested in Connecticut in 2014. Almost 75% of those cases were nothing more than a misdemeanor, according to the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
Malloy also wants to overhaul the bail system so that no one is jailed because they can’t make a minimal bail—a change that one expert thought might decrease the state’s jail population by up to a thousand inmates. Malloy, who is a Democrat, garnered bipartisan support this year for the passage of a Second Chance Society initiative designed to decrease incarceration for non-violent crimes and one that proposed that the records of those under 25 who commit less severe offenses be sealed and possibly expunged.
Malloy said such a change would “wipe the slate clean” for low-risk offenders that have not matured entirely. He plans to propose the reforms to the General Assembly for its 2016 session in February. Malloy proposed changes would make Connecticut the first state to up the age for its juvenile justice system beyond 18.
David McGuire, the legislative and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, says “It makes a lot of sense. It will save a lot of lives. It will really impact an entire generation.”
A study commissioned by the state prior to the age being raised to 18 found that up to 75% of teenagers sent to the adult system didn’t receive any rehabilitative services. The services that others did get were subpar, according to the study. Malloy said the current age is still too low.
Research also shows the human brain doesn’t reach full maturity until at least an individual’s mid-20s—young people don’t fully understand consequences of their actions and are more susceptible to influence. Malloy’s proposal arrives when advocates have raised concerns about the conditions at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School, the state’s jail for juveniles. Juvenile incarceration has been on the decline in Connecticut, and as a result, the state closed its New Haven pre-trial detention center a few years ago. Some want the state to close a similar juvenile jail in Middletown and replace it with smaller regional secure facilities in order for youth to be closer to their families.
Time will tell if Malloy’s plans come to fruition and are a template for other states.