Governor Dannel Malloy has sponsored two bills aimed at increasing protections for low-risk, young adults in the criminal justice system.
Malloy is back this legislative session with the so-called “raise the age” bill. This version would expand the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts, in most circumstances, up to age 21 by July 2021.
The other bill expands what is known as “youthful offender” status through age 20 for certain people. Malloy said the goal is to prevent life-altering consequences from reckless behavior more common in that age group.
This is “so that the mistakes they make before their brains are fully developed don’t keep them from growing, learning and contributing to our society,” Malloy said. “Of course judges and prosecutors will continue to have discretion to handle each case on an individual basis and youthful offender status may not be used by those charged with the most serious crimes such as sexual assault, rape, and murder."
Malloy said U.S. Supreme Court decisions and scientific studies on brain development found that those between the ages of 18 to 20 have similar reasoning and self-control as those between the ages of 16 and 17.
Abby Anderson, executive director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, joined Malloy for a press conference to outline the proposals Tuesday at the University of New Haven.
She said the proposed changes would be good for public safety, the state’s budget, and for young people in their communities. But to be effective, Anderson said the policies and changes “must be accompanied by the budget allocations that prioritize alternative programs and services, and prioritize the communities historically marginalized by problematic public policy, in this case, mass incarceration.”
Both bills were scheduled to have public hearings Wednesday in the legislature’s judiciary committee.