Modest reform will save expensive prison space for more serious offenders
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — FAMM President Julie Stewart today welcomed Connecticut into the growing group of states that have voted to reform their ineffective mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The legislation, SB 952, eliminates mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug possession in the state’s school zones. The new law also reclassifies most drug possession crimes as misdemeanors. If an individual is convicted a second time, a court could order the offender to enter a drug treatment program.
“While we think Connecticut lawmakers should have been bolder and eliminated mandatory minimum sentences completely, this is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Ms. Stewart. “Imposing mandatory prison sentences for simple drug possession is like using a battle axe to prune a ficus tree. We have more effective tools.”
Nearly every housing unit in Connecticut’s major cities falls within the state’s 1,500-foot school zones. As a result, nearly all city residents faced a potential two-year mandatory prison sentence for simple drug possession in their homes. Moreover, there is no evidence that residents who possessed drugs in school zones were more likely to sell drugs to children.
“This commonsense reform will allow the state’s law enforcement community to use its resources more wisely. Addicts will receive treatment, small-time offenders will get a second chance, and serious traffickers will get prison time,” Ms. Stewart concluded.
The legislation garnered bipartisan support and was promoted by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D) as part of his Second Chance Society initiative. On May 27, The New Haven Register published an op-ed by Ms. Stewart in which she called on lawmakers to pass the governor’s mandatory minimum reforms.