HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Are some Connecticut residents spending days, weeks and even months in jail simply because they cannot afford bail? The Malloy Administration contends it’s happening to hundreds of Connecticut residents every year and that it destabilizes families and lives because of minor crimes. This is the latest part of Governor Dannel Malloy‘s Criminal Justice reform initiative that he says has seen crime reduced and resulted in the lowest prison population in decades.
About 140,000 people are arrested in Connecticut in the average year. As of today, 14,500 people are in some form of detention. Most because they have been convicted of a crime, but according to the governor’s office, about 500 are in jail because they can’t afford to pay the bond that sets you free while you await your trial date. In most cases $2,000 or less.
“As we sit here today, hundreds of Connecticut residents are locked up, not because they are a dangerous threat but because they are poor,” the governor told lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee Monday.
Malloy’s proposal prohibits a judge from setting money bail for anyone charged with just a misdemeanor, unless the accused poses a threat or has a history of not showing up for court.
Republicans say they are sympathetic to Malloy’s goal, but want to be certain that “Due attention to whether or not they represent a threat to public safety. That is a concern that we absolutely must address,” said Rep. David Labriola (R-Oxford) a member of the committee.
About 1,000 people work in the ‘Bail Bonds’ business in Connecticut and they say the current system is working well and there is no need for change.
“The amount of people who are detained in Connecticut that are low risk is very nominal, they’ve said it in the ‘Sentencing Commission’ that we have a very low number of people who are held,” said Andrew Bloom of ‘3-D Bail Bonds Inc.’
Is the Bail Bonds industry working against this just to protect their cash flow? Jeffrey Clayton of the ‘American Bail Coalition’ who came to Hartford for today’s hearing responded.
“One, I think these are generally not our clients anyway, these are folks at the lower levels. I think bail works, I think Connecticut is one of the most progressive bails systems in the country, certainly is a model that sell to other states as I travel the country,” said Clayton.
A number of state and federal courts have ruled that it is unconstitutional to send someone to jail simply because they are too poor to post a bond. The Malloy Administration says it’s just a matter of time before someone goes to court to challenge the current system here.