Malloy Calls For A “Second Chance Society”

Paul Bass PhotoUsing a Yale Law classroom as his backdrop, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy unveiled proposals Tuesday to move from locking up nonviolent criminals to helping them succeed in society.

“We cannot perpetually be a punitive society” focused on “swelling prisons” and “creating lifetime criminals out of people who made a mistake,” Malloy told the over 100 students, wardens and parole officials, and Democratic politicians and activists from around the state filling Yale Law School’s Room 127.

The governor, who last month began his second four-year term in office, called for building on reforms from his first term to create a “Second Chance Society” aimed at continuing the past four years’ declines in both violent crime and prison population.

The speech introduced the second sweeping policy goal Malloy has been rolling out for his second term. The first is an emerging “massive” and “comprehensive” rebuilding of the state’s highways, rail lines, bus system, bike routes, and pedestrian pathways over 25 years.

First 5

On Tuesday he offered five specific criminal-justice reforms he plans to pursue this coming legislative session:

• Making drug possession a misdemeanor, not a felony, unless the arrestee was also selling or intending to sell as well. Current polices are “creating lifetime offenders who struggle to find work and reintegrate into society,” Malloy argued. Better to save the $45,000 annual cost of locking them up and help them become productive citizens, he said.

• Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. He said 11 states, including red states like Arkansas and Georgia, have already “repealed or shortened mandatory minimums” since 2009.

• Making parole work more “efficiently and effectively” by streamlining the hearings process, including not requiring non-violent inmates to attend hearings.

• Making pardons “almost automatic” so that ex-offenders who go straight can more easily get jobs. He’d simplify the process for obtaining a pardon and automatically notify ex-offenders about how and when they can pursue pardons at their sentencing and upon completing their sentences. “People—young people—often make mistakes,” Malloy argued. “The road to full citizenship and real opportunity, a genuine second chance, should not be paved with overly burdensome legal land mines.”

• Creating new programs to house ex-offenders and train them for jobs, and boosting existing ones (including “supportive housing” programs).

Malloy said he plans to roll out executive orders in coming months to add to his “Second Chance” initiative. He said it builds on the progress of the past four years, during which time crime dropped to a 48-year low in Connecticut, with violent crime dropping 36 percent. Meanwhile, arrests dropped. So has the state’s prison population. After growing from 5,400 to 20,000 inmates from 1995 through 2008, that population has dropped back down to 16,300, a 16-year low.

Malloy credited his policies—decriminalization of marijuana, the death of the death penalty, gun control, gun buybacks, raising the age to 18 for charging offenders as adults, the gang-fighting “Project Longevity"campaign in major cities (which despite a remark he made Tuesday has not yet reported measurable results in New Haven)—for the drops.

Where Was The GOP?

Malloy called his proposals part of a “a new bipartisan national consensus” away from the lock-‘em, “tough on crime” policies of the late 1990s and early 2000s, toward a “smart on crime” focus on targeting violent criminals. “We lost our way” over those years,” he said. He made a point of citing states with Republican governors—Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama—enacting similar reforms.

“These are not Democrat or Republican ideas,” Malloy declared.

But they were delivered primarily to Democrats, not Republicans. At least on Tuesday.

Republicans were conspicuously absent from the crowd of Democratic mayors, state legislators and activists to whom he made the declaration at Yale Law School.

Asked about that afterwards, Michael Lawlor (pictured), the governor’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning, said the administration invited the legislature’s Republican leaders to the event. They just didn’t show.

That was news to House Minority Leader Themis Klarides.

Reached after the event, she said she hadn’t known about it. She did some checking. She subsequently discovered that a Malloy aide had sent an email to her and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano at 12:06 p.m. Twenty-four minutes before the scheduled start of the New Haven speech.

The email didn’t invite the legislative leaders to the event, Klarides said. It informed them of the event and of the upcoming “Second Chance” proposals. “Somebody from their office would be reaching out to us to discuss these proposals prior to the budget address in a week and a half,” Klarides learned from the email. The message had “nothing in it saying, ‘We would like you to join us’ or ‘You’re welcome to join,’” Klarides said.

(Update: Malloy spokesman Mark Bergman said Republican leaders were invited to the speech days in advance (including to the speech’s original date a week earlier, which was postponed due to snow). He said the 12:06 email was a policy update for the Republican legislators. Klarides later clarified that her assistant did receive the original invitation but “disregarded it” because of the snow postponement. She called it “not atypical of them” to avoid mentioning the invite in the 12:06 email Tuesday. Fasano said he did get an invitation on Monday from Lawlor, but was too busy to attend the speech. )

Invitations aside, Klarides signaled that, while Republicans in other states might float similar proposals, Republicans in Connecticut might not be open to all of them. She needs to see the details before taking a side, she said. But she declared herself reluctant to embrace lowering criminal penaties for drug possession or making it easier to scrub ex-offenders’ records. “We’ve never been for that kind of thing,” she said.

She’d be open to increasing housing and training help for ex-offenders, but first she needs to see the cost, she said.

“To the best of my knowledge,” she said, “there was no conversation with my caucus in preparation of this agenda he put forward today. Just because Republican governors in other states may have supported issues similar to this does not make it bipartisan.”

Klarides voiced skepticism about Malloy’s claims that his policies caused crime to drop: “There are cyclical changes. If you happen to be the one in charge at the time, you take the credit for it.”

Fasano said he is skeptical about the need to expedite parole decisions or decriminalize drug offenses; he said drug offenders do usually receive alternatives to convictions for their first and second arrests. And pardons should be difficult to obtain, he said.

He did say he is “intrigued” by the proposal to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and give judges more discretion. He said he’s also “interested” in how to reduce the parole backlog beyond an expedited procedure.

What About Violent Offenders?

After Malloy’s speech, two Yale law students asked him a seminar-worthy question: If non-violent offenders deserve a “second chance,” don’t violent offenders deserve the same? Malloy’s speech called for locking up violent offenders for longer sentences.

“Some folks need additional help with maturation,” Malloy replied at first.

“Having said that,” he added, “we’re seeing even that audience of people have lower recidivism rates” under his policies.

A second student, Gilad Edelman, rephrased the question.

“The short answer to that is—they should” get second chances, Malloy said of violent offenders.

He then turned to strategy: He said it “makes sense” to see political support for reforms first for a (non-violent) group that is “more broadly embraced for that purpose.”

“If we can demonstrate the same kind of success over the next few years that we’ve had over the last four years” with increasing public safety while seeking less punitive approaches to non-violent crime, then we can pursue “reform[ing] the system more fully,” Malloy said.

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posted by: fountainst on February 3, 2015  8:31pm

This is truly frightening.  The people in Connecticut’s cities will be the one who have to pay for these social experiments.  The reason prison populations have declined is because inmates are pushed out to “halfway houses” where they walk away and then return to the communities they have victimized.  “Streamlining” the parole and probation process is another way to ensure criminals reoffend.  Have we already forgotten the case of Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the Cheshire murderers - given parole instead of serving his sentence.  What about the killer of Officer Peter Lavery - on probation at the time of the murder.  Would someone please take a critical look at what constitutes a “violent crime”?  It would surprise many that carrying an illegal handgun is not considered a violent crime.  Many first time offenders carrying guns are sentenced to probation and never serve any prison time.  Is that a realistic deterrent to prevent future bad behavior?  The bottom line is that prison exists to protect society from being victimized by persons who have already demonstrated their inability to follow society’s rules.  If we have lost sight of that reality, we are going to see those crime rates creep up and more innocent people become victims.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on February 3, 2015  8:35pm

This is a baby step towards a rational policy that would discontinue the bogus War on Drugs and finally end the criminalization of drug use.

Drug use has actually escalated over time, despite the zillions of dollars wasted.

Our politicians are wary of being labeled soft on crime, so this will be a painfully slow process to undo the madness of too many decades of damaging lives and wasting our treasury.

In the future, let the poll ask if we should just decriminalize all drugs, regulate them as we do any drug, including alcohol, and invest the savings in treating the issues of public health and poverty, which are related.

posted by: robn on February 4, 2015  9:41am

I wonder how many people answering the poll understand that “making drug possession a misdemeanor” is a reduction from current sentencing.

posted by: TheMadcap on February 4, 2015  3:49pm

“Have we already forgotten the case of Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the Cheshire murderers”

I too believe our justice system comprised of tens of thousands of individuals currently in it(let alone those previously) should be held to a standard set by 2 sociopathic nutjobs.

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on February 4, 2015  6:26pm

What’s frightening is that we have channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into a failed criminal justice system that does little to further the goals of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The proposals still hold people accountable for breaking the law. But they also recognize that the high cost of imprisoning someone for a crime like drug possession is not an efficient use of limited resources.

Consider the many people who serve their time for non-violent offenses and return to cities like New Haven and Bridgeport where there are limited job opportunities and scant housing options. What do you think happens when people are shut out from earning a living? They commit more crimes and further deteriorate communities.

Klerides needs to conference with her party pals who are leading organizations like Right on Crime while realizing that it’s hypocritical to rail against big government while simultaneously bloating a failed criminal justice system.

posted by: Adam on February 4, 2015  7:05pm

This is the smartest thing any governor has ever said. All drug possession should be a written ticket summons, as well as petty crimes like shoplifting. Do you realize what it cost the state to incarcerate one person for a stupid 20 dollar bag of crack? About 19 thousand just to put that person through the court system and assign him or her a public defender. Then if they are unable to post bond you are looking at another 20 grand for every 6 months at Whalley Ave jail. Release all non-violent low-level drug offenders and petty criminals immediately, shut down a few more prisons and get rid of about one-third of DoC employees and the state budget will be in the surplus every year

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 4, 2015  9:45pm

posted by: Adam on February 4, 2015 6:05pm

This is the smartest thing any governor has ever said. All drug possession should be a written ticket summons, as well as petty crimes like shoplifting. Do you realize what it cost the state to incarcerate one person for a stupid 20 dollar bag of crack?

It will never happen in the U.S. There are too many folks making a handsome living associated with the so called War on Drugs. Just think about all the attorneys, judges, jailers. numerous police organizations, rehabilitation rackets, medical organizations, insurance companies, bankers, smugglers, drug lords, growers, closet chemists, pushers and politicians to name a few who profit from the current war on drugs. The average person hasn,t got a clue and never will. He or she is convinced it’s a morality issue. All you have to do is follow the dollar. Also if you have legalization of drugs there will still be illegal drugs sold to the under age people.

posted by: Bradley on February 5, 2015  8:07am

3/5ths, how do you account for the fact that Connecticut and many other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot, a very common crime.

Which leads me to my second point - the True Vote question is poorly written. Your intent is to ask whether Connecticut should reduce the penalty for possession offenses that are currently felonies to misdemeanors. You did not intend to ask whether small-scale possession should be re-criminalized. Read literally, the question asks whether all possession crimes should be misdemeanors.

posted by: robn on February 5, 2015  9:58am

I don’t care what the amount is; crack and meth and other hard drugs are very different than pot and rapidly destroy lives. Decriminalizing sale and possession of these drugs is just another example of insane CT leftists pushing a utopian agenda.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 5, 2015  10:54am

posted by: Bradley on February 5, 2015 7:07am

3/5ths, how do you account for the fact that Connecticut and many other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot, a very common crime.

The reason this happen is the crooked hedge funders are making money off of the.

Founders Fund—a firm with more than $2 billion in assets under management and whose investment portfolio includes Facebook, SpaceX, Airbnb, and Lyft, among other tech companies—has made a multimillion dollar investment in Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm that invests in the legal cannabis industry.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on February 5, 2015  6:00pm

If the research done by reporter Johann Hari in his book “Chasing the Scream” is correct, decriminalization and regulation are the only policies that make sense.
As he points out, many people use drugs in hospital. I’ve had morphine more than once, - but we don’t come out addicts.
Even Vietnam vets who were hooked while on active duty stopped on their own once they were removed from the hell of war.
Shaping policies based on the most susceptible - with a genetic pre-disposition coupled with trauma - makes no sense for the rest of us.
White people go to the Betty Ford Clinic and people of color go to jail.
Finally we have some government officials brave enough to take steps towards a rational policy.
The cost of “fighting” drugs is only one of the costs; the loss of human life warehoused and wasted is the true cost.
Let’s get on with this reform.
Hat’s off to Mike Lawlor and Dannel Malloy - and all those legislators who will support change.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 5, 2015  9:10pm

We should do this.

How Maoist Revolution Wiped Out Drug Addiction in China
by C. Clark Kissinger

posted by: robn on February 6, 2015  9:39am


Chairman Mao was responsible for more peacetime deaths than any other 20th century leader; 10s of millions. If we’re going to have a pogrom in New Haven lets get rid of communists first.

posted by: Bradley on February 8, 2015  9:10am

Fountainst, the primary reason the prison population has declined is that the crime rate has fallen steadily for over 20 years. The number of part 1 crimes, which include murder, assault, other violent crimes, and property crimes such as vehicle theft, fell from 177,000 in 1990 to 80,000 in 2013. The data are available at the CT Office of Policy Management website at