The following list links to ongoing projects developed entirely or in part by the Connecticut Sentencing Commission in concert with its university and criminal justice partners. Please click the project link for more information.
Members of a subcommittee of the Sentencing Commission meet frequently to discuss proposals that would address issues that people face as a result of being incarcerated or having a criminal record. Given the wide range of issues that fall within this category, the subcommittee has considered and discussed numerous proposals in recent years, including different types of “clean slate” or automatic erasure systems, the financial costs associated with incarceration, and the barriers ex-offenders have when attempting to attain professional or occupational licenses.
In 2014, the General Assembly passed Public Act 14-27, An Act Concerning the Recommendations of the Connecticut Sentencing Commission with Respect to Certificates of Rehabilitation. It should be noted that the Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) and the Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division (JB-CSSD) administratively changed the name of certificates of rehabilitation to certificates of employability (COE) to better reflect the intent and purposes of the certificates. The Sentencing Commission used the COE term throughout this study. The statute recognized that criminal convictions can affect an offender’s ability to obtain employment or the professional license required in certain occupations. These barriers, along with financial instability, have been linked to higher recidivism. Research shows that offenders who are gainfully employed are rearrested at a lower rate than those who are not employed. The COE process was intended to provide relief from these barriers and thereby potentially reduce the rate of recidivism among offenders issued certificates of employability.
Since October 1, 2014, BPP and JB-CSSD, which administers adult probation, have been authorized to award certificates of employability to eligible offenders. The Sentencing Commission was responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of the certificates of employability in reducing the barriers to employment faced by offenders. The longitudinal evaluation process began on October 1, 2015 — one year after the new law took effect on October 1, 2014 — and ended on January 15, 2018.
- The Commission submitted an interim report, as required by law, on June 9, 2016 and approved the final report on December 19, 2018. Its recommendations include proposals to:
- clarify standards for assessing COE applications and the implications of a certificate;
- promote the COE program among employers, targeting appropriate industries and professions;
- consult with stakeholders to identify program improvements to benefit employers and certificate-holders;
- simplify the application form and process and consider automatic COE grants at the time of parole release or early termination of probation or conditional discharge;
- enhance the state’s vocational and education programs for justice-involved individuals; and
- permit discretionary revocation of a COE under certain circumstances but repeal the automatic COE revocation requirement.
Documents & Information
Connecticut Certificates of Employability Final Program Evaluation Report
At its September 2015 meeting, the Sentencing Commission authorized its Research, measurement, and evaluation Committee to distribute a call for proposals regarding a possible study of evidence-based sentencing. Evidence-based sentencing incorporates the results of validated risk and needs assessment measures, in addition to the severity of the instant offense, to determine the likelihood of re-offending and the need for sentences of a different length and/or specialized services. This study seeks to determine: (1) whether sentencing practices in Connecticut, which are most frequently determined through plea agreement, have resulted in sentences that are relatively consistent with sentences that would have resulted from risk and needs assessment-based sentences; (2) what types of offenders are typically sentenced for longer or shorter periods than the assessments would suggest; and (3) the recidivism patterns for offenders whose sentences are congruent with risk and needs assessment, versus those whose sentences deviate from risk and needs assessments. On March 10, 2016, the Commission approved the University of Maryland’s proposal to study an evidence-based assessment of sentencing practices in Connecticut. The draft report is expected to be submitted in 2018.
Co-Chairs: Stephen Grant & Robert Farr
The special committee on sex offenders (SCSO) was formed by the Commission in June 2015 to assist with the study, develop recommendations, and report to the Commission with its findings. The committee is composed of individuals with a broad base of personal and professional experience with sex offenders in Connecticut.
During the 2015 session, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Special Act 15-2, An Act Concerning A Study of the Sexual Offender Registration System. The act requires the Commission to take a comprehensive look at the registration, management, and sentencing of sexual offenders in Connecticut. The Commission is required to submit reports to the General Assembly on February 1, 2016 and December 15, 2017.
Community & Victim Needs
- Co-Chairs: Laura Cordes & Sgt. Matthew Garcia
This subcommittee is charged with studying: victim and survivor needs and services and community education; the registration requirements and the registry established under chapter 969 of the general statutes; the information available to the public and law enforcement regarding sexual offenders; and the community impact of existing sex offender residency restrictions and housing opportunities.
Assessment & Management
- Co-Chairs: David Rentler & Gary Roberge
The subcommittee on sex offender assessment and management was created to study and review: the risk assessment and management of sexual offenders, methods to reduce and eliminate recidivism by individuals convicted of a sexual offense, sexual offender management, the housing opportunities and obstacles for sex offender registrants, and the effectiveness of a tiered classification system based on the risk of re-offense.
- Co-Chairs: Brian Austin & Thomas Ullmann
This subcommittee is charged with studying the sentencing of sex offenders and
the options for post-sentence appeals concerning the registry status of a sexual offender registrant.
During the 2015 session, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 15-84, An Act Concerning Lengthy Sentences for Crimes Committed by a Child or Youth and the Sentencing of a Child or Youth Convicted of Certain Felony Offenses. Section 10 of the Act mandates that the Commission study how “victims may be notified of the parole eligibility laws and any other release mechanisms governing cases where a person is convicted of one or more crimes and receives a definite sentence or total effective sentence of more than two years for such crime or crimes.”
The Commission is required to submit a report and recommendations for legislation to the General Assembly no later than February 1, 2016.
The Victim Notification Working Group was formed by the Commission in June 2015 to assist with the study, develop recommendations, and report to the Commission with its findings.
In 2015, Governor Dannel Malloy requested that the Commission undertake a study of Connecticut’s Pretrial Justice System and develop proposed reforms. This initial effort produced a Commission study and the passage of An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform (PA 17-145). The Commission continues to discuss and analyze reform proposals for Connecticut’s pretrial release and detention system.
Additional progress was made in 2019 when the Judicial Rules Committee of the Superior Court approved a Commission proposal that automatically granted defendants the ability to secure release through a ten percent deposit for bail bonds of $20,000 or less. In addition, the proposal for the first time introduced ten percent cash bonds at the level of arrest at the police departments. The new rule went into effect on January 1, 2020.
As the Commission continues its work on pretrial release and detention, it focuses primarily on 1) assessing racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and gendered disparities in pretrial justice outcomes, and 2) developing a proposal that would reduce the population of pretrial detainees through the reduction or elimination of monetary bail conditions. The Commission is currently developing a proposal in response to a letter from President Pro Tempore of the Senate Martin Looney, who has requested the Commission develop a bail system that does not utilize money bail as a detention mechanism.
Urban Institute’s Report on Connecticut’s Pretrial Tool Assessment
Public Act 17-145
Report to the Governor and General Assembly on Pretrial Release and Detention
Sentencing Commission Letter on Automatic Ten Percent Bail Option
Letter from Senator Martin Looney
The Commission is actively reviewing the different avenues and criteria through which incarcerated individuals can be released or have their sentence modified. Following developments in federal legislation and the Model Penal Code, the Commission is currently investigating avenues through which defendants serving very long sentences or facing “extraordinary and compelling circumstances,” (such as terminal illness or the death of their children’s primary caretaker) may obtain sentence modification or early release.
As a part of this effort, the Commission has developed a proposal, which can be found here, making changes to eligibility criteria under Connecticut’s Sentence Review and Sentence Modification statutes.
In response to recent legislative efforts to expand the right to vote to felons on parole, The Commission has joined other advocates in calling for the restoration of voting rights to people on parole. Those on probation are already able to vote.
The Commission continues to look into voting issues. In addition to researching the expansion of voting rights, the Commission is currently investigating the obstacles that eligible incarcerated voters face when attempting to register, obtain an absentee ballot, and vote.
During the 2015 legislative session, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Special Act 15-2, An Act Concerning A Study of the Sexual Offender Registration System. The act requires the Commission to take a comprehensive look at the registration, management, and sentencing of sexual offenders in Connecticut.
After two years of research, the Commission has assembled an extensive proposal that would transition Connecticut’s Sexual Offender Registry from an offense-based registry to a risk-based registry. The proposal also called for a removal mechanism from the registry. The Commission is currently working with key stakeholders in the criminal justice system and the General Assembly to pass these recommended changes.
As part of this effort, the Commission also developed a proposal updating the sentencing structure for child pornography offenses.
The Commission is currently advocating for a legislative proposal that would reduce the maximum sentence for class A misdemeanors by a single day, from 365 days to 364 days. This slight change would limit some of the most severely disproportionate consequences for Connecticut’s immigrants and their families. California, Nevada, Oregon, New York and Washington have already enacted similar changes to their misdemeanor statutes to protect families and preserve the integrity of plea-bargaining in state court. The proposal is currently before the Judiciary Committee.
Special Act 19-17 tasked the Sentencing Commission with studying potential disparities in pretrial and sentencing outcomes related to the race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status of criminal defendants in the state of Connecticut. The Commission has partnered with Connecticut’s Information Sharing System and faculty from the University of Connecticut to develop a study that will quantify these disparities. The Commission produced an interim report on this study in January 2020 and will be issuing a final report of its findings in January 2021.