JS Publication April 1, 2008

Diversion Works: How Connecticut Can Downsize Prisons, Improve Public Safety and Save Money with a Comprehensive Mental Health and Substance Abuse Approach

This report, prepared by Judy Greene and Russ Immarigeon, Justice Strategies consultant and editor of various national criminal justice publications, presents information about the incarceration of mentally ill people, many with co-occurring substance abuse problems. It identifies effective program models that could be used to ease the Connecticut’s prison population pressures and reverse its growth trend.

News Article The Stamford Advocate March 25, 2006

Supporters Urge Change to Laws on Drug-free School Zones (CT)

HARTFORD -- Calling current law racist, activists yesterday pushed for a bill that would shrink the size of zones around schools, day-care centers and public housing that carry stiffer penalties for drug offenses.

The bill would reduce the current 1,500 foot "drug free" radius around those facilities to 200 feet, within which additional mandatory three-year sentences are tacked on to drug offenses, including possession, sale and intent to sell drugs.

Advocates said the law hurts minorities disproportionately because prohibited zones blanket most of Connecticut's mostly minority central cities much more than suburban or rural areas. Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, for example, are almost totally covered with drug-free zones, according to a national study released this week by the Justice Policy Institute.

Supporters of the bill held a news conference before testifying at a Judiciary Committee public hearing on the bill and several others. "All these laws do is be tough on people of color and poor people in our communities," said Barbara Fair, a licensed clinical social worker and member of New Haven-based People Against Injustice. "It's giving the prosecutors a (plea bargaining) tool to use to coerce people to plead guilty to crimes they may not have even committed." Read more »

News Article

Connecticut drug-free zone laws blanket minority neighborhoods but fail to deter drug activity

Connecticut ranks at the top in the nation in the degree of disparity between the rates of incarceration for whites and blacks. The state’s drug-free zone laws contribute to that disparity by blanketing densely populated urban neighborhoods with prohibited zones. Yet new research shows that the laws do nothing to protect in youth from drug activity

Connecticut ranks at the top in the nation in the degree of disparity between the rates of incarceration for whites and blacks. Many who advocate for racial justice believe that the state’s mandatory minimum drug laws – including statutes that enhance penalties for offenses that take place in prohibited zones – play a major role in fostering that racial disparity.

Connecticut's drug-free zone laws affect manufacture, sale, and possession of a drug or drug paraphernalia within 1,500 feet of a school, day care center, or public housing unit. The mandatory penalties were designed to operate as sentencing enhancements, and are imposed on top of whatever sentence a person receives for the underlying drug offense. Read more »

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