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Malloy, Bronin, ex-convicts meet to discuss Second Chance Society Initiative

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HARTFORD--Gov. Dan Malloy joined other elected officials, community leaders and people who have served time in prison Monday in Hartford for a roundtable discussion at The Kitchen Café.

Markus Keaton has worked at the cafe for eight weeks, after serving three years at Willard-Cybulski Prison in a reintegration center created under Malloy's Second Chance Society Initiative.

"It's been a tough road,” Keaton said during the roundtable. “What I think needs to happen is, a lot of guys get out of jail without knowledge, without no schooling. "

While Keaton is back on his feet, he knows of others who've re-offended.

Those in the room agree our prison system is a work in progress.

Malloy was hoping to continue reforms this past legislative session with a second set of initiatives, but they failed to pass the General Assembly. Those initiatives include eliminating bail for certain non-violent crimes. Here are statistics released on Monday of how many prisoners are being held on small bails or for non-violent offenses:

  • Current pre-trial prisoners with a controlling offense that is a misdemeanor: 433
  • Current pre-trial prisoners who have charges where the underlying offense could be a misdemeanor: 631
  • Estimated number of low-risk inmates accused of misdemeanors who cannot make bail and are in jail pretrial today: 346
  • Estimated cost to the state to jail all low-risk, misdemeanor pretrial inmates today: $58,128
  • Total cost to the state that would be saved with Second Chance implementation since May 16: $58,128

Another part of Malloy's bill is to extend juvenile status to individuals up to 20 years old.

Republicans have some concerns. They say a 20-year-old who commits a crime like sexual assault could get their record wiped clean under the plan.

However, Malloy argues the legislation needs to pass, pointing out again our system disproportionately affects minority groups.

"Telling people to wait was the rough equivalent of telling people Martin Luther King that he should spend more time in the Birmingham jail," Malloy said during the roundtable.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who was in attendance at Monday's roundtable, penned a Letter to the Editor in the New York Times that was published on Monday about justice system reform. Bronin has been a huge advocate for the Fair Chance Employment Act, also known as a "ban the box" policy that prohibits employers from asking on job applications if an applicant has been convicted of a crime. That legislation did pass during the recent session before it concluded last Wednesday.

Here's some of what Bronin had to say:

Far too many people struggle to overcome the nearly insurmountable obstacle that a criminal record represents in the job market. But I’ve spoken to several business owners who have decided to look beyond job applicants’ past mistakes.
Those employers have told me, repeatedly, that “second chance” employees are often their most dedicated workers, because those employees know how hard it was to get that chance.

On Friday, the state House did not finish one of the budget-related bills. It’s expected members will meet again before the end of the fiscal year to discuss it, and Malloy is hoping Second Chance will also be taken up then.

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