How Long Can Connecticut’s Prison Reform Last?

By Josh Jacobs

When Dannel Malloy, the Democratic governor of Connecticut, entered Germany’s Heidering Prison two years ago this summer, he saw something more akin to an American college dormitory than a detention center. Heidering rejects the idea that prisons should aim to punish, and permits even convicted murderers to cook their own food, lock their own cells, and leave to see their families on weekends.

Germany “can actually call their [prisons] a corrections system as opposed to our penal system,” Malloy told me. “I think their focus is the right one and our focus is the wrong one, and I think their focus is substantially better at reducing recidivism.”

Since his inauguration in 2011, the governor has set about trying to make his home state’s jails and prisons a little bit more like Germany’s by curbing incarceration rates and rethinking how prisoners are treated. It’s part of a justice-reform plan that he believes could be a model for reducing prison populations across the country.

But as his administration continues implementing that agenda, Malloy’s allies and prisoner advocates worry: Can the governor’s reforms outlast the governor? Many of them came through administrative edicts and could be undone immediately after he leaves office in January 2019. Even some of his legislative victories could be reversed under a new legislature and governor.

So far, administration-backed measures have ended the use of the death penalty, decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana, and altered the bail system, among others. Malloy’s signature reform, his “Second Chance Society” legislation, makes it easier for people charged with nonviolent crimes to apply for parole and pardons, and reduces penalties for drug possession.

Inside prison walls, the person helping execute Malloy’s agenda is Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple, who told me he envisions a “progressive prison system” with programs to help inmates prepare for …read more

Via:: The Atlantic


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