Projects & Initiatives

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.

Incarceration and The Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction

Members of a subcommittee of the Sentencing Commission meet frequently to discuss proposals that would address issues 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, consequences of state criminal conviction on federal immigration status, the financial costs associated with incarceration, and the barriers that formerly-incarcerated people face when attempting to attain professional or occupational licenses.
Certificates of Employability
Project Description 
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. The statute recognized that criminal convictions can affect a person’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 Certificates were intended to provide relief from these barriers.

Since October 1, 2014, The Board of Pardons and Paroles and Judicial Branch Court Support Services Division, which administers adult probation, have been authorized to award certificates of employability to eligible offenders. The Sentencing Commission was responsible the Public Act for evaluating the effectiveness of the certificates in reducing the barriers to employment faced by people with a criminal record. 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.

Documents & Information 
Connecticut Certificates of Employability Final Program Evaluation Report
Presentation
Interim Report
PA 14-27

Links
Court Support Services Division Site
Board of Pardons & Paroles Site

Study of Evidence-Based Sentencing
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 offense, to determine the likelihood of re-offending and the need for sentences of a different length and/or specialized services. This study sought to determine: (1) whether sentencing practices in Connecticut have resulted in sentences that are relatively consistent with sentences that would have resulted from risk and needs assessment-based sentences; (2) who might be sentenced for longer or shorter periods than the assessments would suggest; and (3) the recidivism patterns for people whose sentences are consistent with risk and needs assessment, versus those whose sentences deviate from risk and needs assessments.

In 2018, the Commission approved a proposal from the University of Maryland to perform an evidence-based assessment of sentencing practices in Connecticut. The authors completed this study and presented their findings on risk-and needs-based assessment tools and sentencing to the Commission in September 2019. They found that offenders with higher risk scores were more likely to be incarcerated in Connecticut, which suggests that Connecticut’s sentencing practices are already relatively risk-and needs-based. The researchers did find, however, that link between sentence length and risk score was relatively weak.

Evaluation of the Impact of Risk and Needs-Based Sentencing in Connecticut

Pretrial Release and Detention in Connecticut

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 comprehensive evaluation at the pretrial justice systems in Connecticut and other jurisdictions. Recommendations in the report served as the basis of HB 7044, An Act Concerning Pretrial Justice Reform passed in 2017

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 State Senate Martin Looney, who has requested the Commission to develop a proposal that would reduce the pretrial detained population and eliminate 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

Sentence Review and Modification
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.

Voting Rights and Access

In 2018, the Commission joined other advocates in calling for the restoration of voting rights to people on parole. Those on probation are already able to vote.

Since then, the Commission has continued 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. Those people held on bond, and those who are convicted and incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses are eligible to vote.

Sentencing, Management, and Registration of Sexual Offenders

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 required the Commission to take a comprehensive look at the registration, management, and sentencing of sexual offenders in Connecticut.

After two years of study and research, the Commission has published a comprehensive report and a legislative proposal to transition Connecticut’s Sexual Offender Registry from an offense-based to a risk-based system. 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.

Special Act 15-2
2016 Interim Report: Special Committee on Sex Offenders
A Study of the Sex Offender Sentencing, Registration, and Management System
Commission Child Pornography Sentencing Proposal 
2018 Commission Sexual Offender Registry Proposal
2019 Commission Sexual Offender Registry Proposal

Immigration

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.

Racial, Ethnic, Socioeconomic, and Gendered Disparities

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.

Special Act 19-17
2020 Interim Report: A Study of the Disparities in Pretrial and Sentencing Outcomes of Criminal Defendants

Mental Illness & Healthcare for Incarcerated Individuals

In 2019, the Commission received a request from Senator Cathy Osten requesting the Commission study mental illness in Connecticut’s incarcerated population. The Commission has assembled a subcommittee composed of mental healthcare professionals, who are working with the Commission to study the incidence of chronic mental illness among incarcerated individuals, the mental healthcare services available to them, their success in obtaining early release, and their utilization of the re-entry services available to them.

Request from Sen. Osten

Pretrial Diversionary Programs

Pretrial diversionary programs are voluntary options available to defendants charged with nonviolent offenses as an alternative to criminal case processing. In Connecticut, these programs are available for a wide variety of offenses. Upon successful completion of these programs, defendants’ criminal charges are dropped and their arrest records are erased. In 2015, Governor Malloy requested the Commission study the state’s current diversionary program offerings and consider recommended reforms. Since then, the Commission has been working on a study to better understand the specific requirements, utilization, and outcomes of each pretrial diversionary program.