Apr 29, 2008

Bogus version of three strikes passes


Here are the highlights of the crime bill that finally managed to pass the house on Friday last week;

•$5,232,000 for improved supervision of sex offenders who are on probation, including upgraded lie-detector and global positioning system, or GPS, technologies. The money will also be used for truancy prevention and helping officials serve warrants on probation violators.

•$2,147,000 to hire more parole officers and prison guards, along with expanding the use of GPS technology to track criminals who are out on parole.•

$910,000 for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for supportive housing and improving the women's jail-diversion program, among others.

•$681,000 for the Division of Criminal Justice for more prosecutors and better computers.
•$514,000 to hire more employees in the state police department's major crime squad.•
$512,000 for the Public Defender Services Commission for defense lawyers to handle more prosecutions and aid indigent criminals.

Please note the comparative amount of money designated for the adding of more Prosecutors to our Ct courts, this presumably so that we may begin to bring more cases to trial, as opposed to the current rote mode of adjudicating 96 percent of our violent crimes via the plea bargain model. Plea bargains involve dropping down a violent offender's original felony charges, the ones that the police have carefully and responsibly charged him/ her with, and in cases of multple charges some become completely dropped altogther, in the name of the deal" . These deals have historiclly served our Connecticut courts as a quick and easy compromise to avoid trials, save effort and money and still wind up with some kind of conviction on that prosecutors record-Albeit one that is substantially less serious than the crimes that were committed.

ThIs leaves a violent criminal with too light of a sentence for the seriousness of the crimes that he committed as well as a conviction record that does not reflect theseriousness of the violence that he is capable of and indeed has committed in the past! Its a lose lose for the citizens of connecticut in terms of violent criminals.

Plea bargaining is the number one enemy of any repeat offender sentencing bill, even the ones in name only such as was just passed by the Connecticut Legislature. All a prosecutor has to do to get around sentencing A a violent criminal under this the new repeat offender provision, is to simply drop the original charge or charges that qualified as a crime that fell under the persistent offender status, right down a notch or two to one that does not qualify ie sex assault 1 down to sex assault 2 or 3. Assault one or two both violent felonies down to assault three, and even an attempted murder can be dropped down to an assault, a client of mine on juryduty just related a story about,a case he was chosen for wherebythe state chose to plea brgain a case involving a man who was shot in the face down for the attempted murder charge to assault!
And now as in the past, no reason need be given for these kinds of pleas by the prosecutor offering it up.
Runaway plea dealing is the kind of thing that even the democratic chairs of the judiciary committee recently admitted is getting in the way of responsible sentencing in our Conn courts, opotentially leading to tragic consequences, such as the latest home invasion in New Britain last month, as well as the Petit family crimes where if either accused killer there had been convicted of all of the charges against them, they would have been in prison for a substantialy longer amount of time. These are but two case that had the most horrificv outcomes- hundreds of other violent crimes are committed by criminals our of prison too soon due to light sentencing via plea deals within our state every single year.

Approx 600,00 dollars allocated for hiring of new prosecutors equals at best with benefits etc. maybe 6 new additional prosecutors for the entire state of Connecticut! This is not likely to make a ding in our repeat violent crime problem.

And when Considering the amount of monies designated for much less essential things with this same reform package, see above list (See first item ie 7 million dollars for increased tracking of sex criminals etc etc once they leave prison ) only serves to draw glaring attention to the paltriness and unrealistic amount of funds that our legislative body saw fit to designate to something that is clearly at the very nucleus of the violent crime problem. I daresay that these two figures should have been inverted-with the 7 million going to new prosecutors and new public defenders to pick up the increased load that will result when they begin trying more violent crime cases rather than the speedier easier plea bargaining that they were accustomed to being offered for their clients.

This is a clear example of the seeming dis ingenuousness of some of these regform measures-they would appear to be an ineffective panacea for the Connecticut masses, this during an election year.

In order to make any kind of genuine difference in how our violent crime cases are handled in the future, each court will need at the very least, one more full time prosecutor , with our busier city courts needing 2 or more at minimum to handle what will intially surely be a considerable increase in time spent on each violent crime case that is assigned to them. Trial preparation is time consuming, particularly when done correctly and intelligently. This is what would be needed for any legitimate plan to overhaul our courts handling of all violent crime sentencing.
However I believe that in time as word gets out, these steps will begin to cause a drop in violent crime as common sense dictates that a deterrence factor will slowly take hold. If criminals see that they are definetely going to be put away for a very long time for any violent crime, violent crime will begin to abate in this state.
And for every horrible murder case such as the Petit family's, that Connecticut can prevent from happening via deterrence, we will save millions of dollars on public defender and prosecution fees, all court costs including 24 hour armed guards for the prisoners both in and out of court such as has become necessitated within these higher profile cases, not to metion the basic upkeep of these criminals in prison, as well as the succession of death penalty appeals that follow these kinds of heinous crimes. This is a great deal of money that can be saved by the state of connecticut.

And missing altogether from this reform package was an oversight committee or policing body for our existing and new prosecutors, in order to insure that they are held responsible for the life and death decisions that they choose to make to plea down any criminal's charges that should have been treated under repeat offender sentencing status. If there is no such body, our prosecutors are not going to be accountable in the future for the irresponsible decisions that have come to define our many of our courts sentencing procedure.

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