HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Dannel Malloy is proposing that young people between the ages of 18 and 21 who commit minor crimes, not be sent to prison. Statistics from criminal justice experts indicated that if a young person can stay out of prison when they are under age 25, they are unlikely to ever be in prison during their life.
There are currently over 800 inmates between the age of 18 and 21 in Connecticut Department of Correction custody. Mostly young men serving time along with adult offenders. In many cases, serving time for minimal offenses. Current law treats them as adults even though if they had committed the same offense at age 17 years and 11 months, their case would have been handled differently and they wouldn’t be in prison with adult offenders.
Governor Malloy is asking the legislature to approve placing 18 to 21 year olds in a new category called ‘youthful offender.’
“It’s not about coddling, it’s about having a society where young people who make mistakes don’t pay a price forever,” said Malloy.
Under this proposal, instead of being placed in prison with the adult offender population, the youthful offender would be provided with support services to help them succeed in life. Upon completion they would not have a criminal record.
“Recent research shows the brain’s not matured until well into the twenties and that has an affect on behavior. Makes the kids more volatile in emotionally charged settings, less future oriented,” said Vincent Schirali of the Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice.
Under this proposal, youthful offender status would not apply to most serious crimes and motor vehicle crimes would remain in adult court. Protections for victims would remain in place.
Rep. Toni Walker (D-New Haven) has been working on this issue for several years.
“We understand that we cannot criminalize children for normal behaviors. We have to give them supports to make them thrive,” said Walker.
The current cost to keep someone in prison in Connecticut is about $168 per day. The cost of these support programs for youthful offenders is much less so the Governor, and Rep. Walker, say it saves money.