Proposal to soften drug offense punishments in Connecticut

Governor says nonviolent drug offenders deserve a "second chance"

Connecticut Governor Daniel P. Malloy recently unveiled a number of proposals designed to reform harsh state drug laws, according to the Connecticut Post. The proposals include reclassifying some drug offenses as misdemeanors and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences. Additionally, if the measures are passed, convicted drug offenders would have more opportunities to reintegrate into society without being held back by a criminal record. While some concerns have been raised, the proposals have so far been met with broad bipartisan support.

Reform drug laws

Under the reformed drug laws, simple nonviolent drug possession would become a misdemeanor offense except in cases where there is intent to sell. Additionally, mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses would be eliminated. The lack of mandatory minimum sentences would allow judges to tailor sentences to the unique circumstances of each case. In some instances, for example, drug treatment may be more effective than prison.

The proposals are also focused on giving convicted offenders more opportunities to succeed once they have completed their sentences. The governor wants new employment and housing programs to make it easier for drug offenders to get back on their feet after returning to society. Expedited parole hearings and the possibility of pardons for convicted drug offenders could also help many people find jobs and earn a living following a drug conviction.

Failed experiment

The proposals are part of a strategy of reversing the tough-on-crime policies of previous decades. The governor called such policies a "failed experiment" that had led to increased incarceration rates and had done little to improve public safety. He also pointed out that the large prison population had become unsustainable, with taxpayers paying $45,000 per year to imprison a single offender.

While issues have been raised about some details of the proposals, the changes enjoy relatively broad bipartisan support. The chance at saving taxpayer dollars while also breaking the cycle of incarceration has made reform of drug laws one of the rare issues in recent years that people of most political stripes are able to find common ground on.

Drug offenses

While the above proposals, if passed, will go a long way towards creating a fairer justice system, the fact is that for the time being drug laws in Connecticut remain harsh. Even if the reforms are successful, there is little indication that police or prosecutors will suddenly stop their efforts against alleged drug offenders.

As such, anybody charged with a drug offense should not make the mistake of thinking a court will necessarily treat them lightly. Defendants should always reach out to a criminal defense attorney when faced with these serious charges. An experienced attorney can advise clients of their rights and of how best to deal with any criminal accusations.