Juvenile justice reform talks continue as more crimes are committed

Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — After a rash of teen car thefts and brazen break-ins, authorities looking for answers to a juvenile crime crisis are making headway.

“A lot of times when you peel back the onion on a system that has come together piecemeal you learn that the unanticipated consequences rise to the top,” said State Representative Craig Fishbein, the Republican ranking member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Lawmakers at the Capitol have met several times with police chiefs and judges, The Department of Children and Families and Chief State’s Attorneys.

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Here are some draft ideas they’re discussing;

  • 24/7 access to arrest record history for judges and police departments.
  • GPS monitoring bracelets for repeat offenders.
  • Mandatory fingerprinting — right now fingerprints aren’t taken.

Fishbein gave this example: “If a car is found two weeks later that’s abandoned in the woods somewhere and there are fingerprints, the opportunity to link that up is lost if the fingerprints aren’t taken.”

Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s not interested in a “lock ’em up” approach for first-time offenders. He wants to rely on group home settings with wrap-around services.

“The consequences should be immediate, not many months. We’re not talking about incarceration, we’re talking about the group homes in a way they can get a mentor and a parole officer to deal with them in a more serious way to prevent this from happening again,” added Gov. Lamont in regards to repeat offenders.

He also mentioned the Whalley Avenue prison in New Haven.

“One is closed it’s down on Whalley Avenue, one that we could take a look at pretty soon – so we do have capacity there,” added Lamont.

RELATED: Juvenile justice reform: CT lawmakers considering changes after public outrage

Fishbein says the current law bars some teens from adult court. Right now, there is a 14-year-old from Stamford in a detention center for murder, which occurred on May 18, 2021.

The maximum sentence a juvenile court judge can hand down is 36-months of supervised probation.
Fishbein, an attorney, says when the teen turns 22 he can ask for his conviction to be erased. By law, the state has to grant that request.

“As we’ve continued bipartisan discussions, we’ve had a number of productive conversations with the various stakeholders in the juvenile justice system. Following these discussions, I’m encouraged that we will be able to find a balanced, reasonable approach to the issue,” said Democratic State Representative Steve Stafstrom, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

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