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A Push to Eliminate Bail for Lower-Level Offenders in Connecticut

David Locke
Creative Commons

Lawmakers are weighing a proposal that could prevent people charged with less serious crimes from being stuck in jail before they're convicted. 

The debate centers around bail, particularly people who commit non-violent, low-level offenses, and can't afford to pay a bond, or a bondsman. This payment sometimes amounts to a few hundred dollars to secure their release while awaiting trail.

This year, Governor Dannel Malloy proposed eliminating most of those cash bails for anyone charged with only a misdemeanor.

It's part of his "Second Chance 2.0" initiative.

"We do believe that misdemeanors and people held on small misdemeanor bonds for long periods of time -- that's a problem," said Drew Bloom, a bondman and past president of the Bail Association of Connecticut.

But Bloom said the governor's other idea -- providing every defendant the option to pay ten percent of a bail set by a judge to secure a pre-trail release -- is more problematic, and could lead to some higher-level offenders re-entering society sooner.

Under Malloy's proposal, a judge would be able to deny the accused the ten-percent option if they're deemed a danger to society.

Mike Lawlor, Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, said holding people who can't afford bail can lead to an unjust society. "More and more people are being held pre-trail for longer periods of time and it may, in part, be driving a system where the way to get out of jail is to plead guilty," he said.

Malloy's Second Chance Society cleared the judiciary committee this week.

In a report released Wednesday the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a free-market think tank, proposed eliminating cash bail, especially for low-level offenders in Connecticut.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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