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Connecticut GOP Introduces Measures To Undo Recent Criminal Justice Reforms

The Connecticut State Capitol Building in Hartford
The Connecticut State Capitol Building in Hartford

Connecticut GOP lawmakers are proposing legislation to deal with an uptick in car thefts compared to last year. They’d like Democrats to agree to a special legislative session to discuss the package, but Democrats said the new measures are not necessary.

Members of the GOP caucus believe Democratic criminal justice reforms over the years have lessened public safety. Representative Craig Fishbein of Wallingford helped draft the GOP package.

He said it includes having certain crimes committed by juveniles tried in adult court.

“So we would have automatic transfers for a Class A misdemeanor that results in a loss of life or serious physical injury,” Fishbein said.

The proposal also calls for mandatory fingerprinting of juveniles who commit felonies and more access to some juvenile records. Representative Toni Walker of New Haven sponsored some of the Democratic criminal justice reforms the GOP wants to undo. She said the juvenile system reforms her party passed in 2011 are working fine.

“The recent arrest of a 16-year-old, who allegedly stole a car with a two-year-old in it, was an example of how this system can work under the current law,” Walker said.

The 16-year-old was charged with first-degree larceny.

Mike Lawlor teaches criminal law at the University of New Haven. He said new laws are not the answer.

“What they are proposing here is complicated — it’s going to be very expensive, and its not going to work, assuming your goal is reducing the number of auto thefts,” Lawlor said.

Lawlor said auto thefts would drop if everyone locked their cars and took their keys with them. He wants data to see if the uptick in crime across the country might be a consequence of the pandemic.

The ACLU of Connecticut accuses the GOP of fear-mongering for political gain.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.