The Connecticut General Assembly's Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a set of proposals that builds on Governor Dannel Malloy's Second Chance Society reforms.
The governor's bill proposes three major provisions.
First, it would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 18 to 20 years old. The proposal builds on the success of Connecticut's first "raise the age" initiative in 2007, which raised the juvenile age from 16 to 18.
"The original cohort of teens, under the original raise the age effort, has resulted in a drop since 2008 of 54 percent of those individuals in adult prisons," Karen Buffkin, general counsel to the governor, told the committee.
Raising the age would also make offenders who are 18, 19, or 20 years old eligible for youthful offender status. This would conceal their names from public record under juvenile offender status, and limit their incarceration to no more than four years. It would also erase their conviction record upon completion of the juvenile offender program.
Juveniles convicted of serious or violent crimes are not be eligible for youthful offender status.
The third provision is an overhaul of the state's pre-trial system. It includes a proposal to eliminate money bail for a misdemeanor charge, except under certain conditions, like multiple offenses, or if the presiding judge determines the offender poses a threat to the public.
Mike Lawlor, the governor's Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, told the panel that he recently counted about 300 low-risk, non-violent offenders who are in jail awaiting trial because they could not afford to make bail.
"Oftentimes, they had a minimum wage job, and they've now lost that job because they've been locked up for a few weeks for minor stuff," Lawlor said. "We can all agree that doing that to somebody makes it less likely that they are going to succeed when they get out."
The bill also would give offenders the option to make a cash deposit of ten percent of bail to be released while awaiting trial.
The Bail Association of Connecticut opposes the measure, claiming the bill would result in the loss of 1,000 jobs in the commercial bail bond industry in the state.
The Judiciary Committee could vote on the bill as early as next week.