Fasano, Kissel Applaud Senate Passage of Criminal Justice Legislation

June 3, 2015

Bipartisan Collaboration Amends ‘Second Chance’ Bill

Hartford – Early this morning the Connecticut Senate approved a bill that would implement sweeping criminal justice reforms across the state. Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) and Senator John A. Kissel (R-Enfield), who worked with Democrats on the bill language, applauded bipartisan passage of an amended version of Senate Bill 952 “An Act Concerning A Second Chance Society.” The lawmakers s­poke specifically to the legislation’s changes to the state’s drug possession laws and applauded the Republican Parole Board reforms included in the budget.

“Drug use is a public health issue, not a criminal issue. Until we start treating it as such, we cannot move our state forward,” said Senator Fasano. “This legislation takes a strong stand in penalties for drug sales, while simultaneously taking a realistic approach to reduce drug use. We believe everyone deserves an opportunity to pull themselves up when they make a mistake. But we don’t believe in unlimited chances. Multi-time offenders need to be held fully accountable for their actions. But if we can intervene before a person gets to that point, we can help them get back on the right track and promote real change. Helping nonviolent offenders stay out of prison, aiming to reduce recidivism, is an important reform.”

“Simple possession of a drug should not send you into a life where you have no opportunity,” said Senator Kissel, Ranking Member of the state’s Judiciary Committee. “I applaud everyone who worked together to put forward this important legislation. When we first saw this bill, it needed a lot of polishing. But the end product is much better because of that.”

“I want to thank Senator Looney, Senator Duff, Senator Coleman, Senator Winfield, Representative Tong, Representative Klarides, Representative Rebimbas and all lawmakers who came together to work on this legislation collaboratively,” said Fasano.

The amended bill makes the following changes to the state’s criminal justice laws regarding drug possession and drug free school zones.

Statewide Changes

  • Makes the crime of drug possession a misdemeanor for the first two offenses. In addition to the applicable penalty, the person must participate in a drug evaluation and treatment program if found to be drug dependent. The legislation also specifies that the amount of drugs involved in the arrest must be for personal use (not more than amounts indicated in existing possession with intent to sell law State Statute 21a-278).
  • Requires third and subsequent convictions be punishable as felonies


  • 1st possession violation anywhere would be a Class A Misdemeanor
  • 2nd arrest for possession anywhere would be a Class A Misdemeanor and offender would be required to undergo a drug evaluation. If evaluation finds an individual to be “drug dependent” that individual would be able to go into a drug treatment program.
  • 3rd violation, offender would be charged as a “persistent offender” of controlled substances position. This would be a Class E Felony, with a jail sentence of 1-3 years.

School Zone Changes

  • Maintains the state’s 1500 foot drug free school zones for sale as well as for possession convictions. Any conviction in school zone will require jail time, but not mandatory minimums.
  • Drug sale charges within a school zone penalties remain the same as current law
  • Any drug possession violation within a school zone is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by some term of imprisonment and parole plus community service for the first two offenses . Third violation would be a Class E Felony.

The legislation also includes changes to the Board of Pardons and Parole to improve victim notification regarding parole actions, as proposed by Senator Henri Martin (R-Bristol).

On the floor of the Senate, Sen. Martin recalled the case of convicted cop killer Gary Castonguay, a case in which the state’s Parole Board had come under heavy criticism for its decision in January to release Castonguay who was in prison for gunning down Plainville police officer Robert Holcomb in 1977. The decision was eventually reversed after it came to the attention of the Holcomb family that the Parole Board had agreed to release Castonguay without any input from members of the victims’ family, who were not notified of the previous parole hearing. This legislation would ensure that families in similar situations to the Holcomb’s receive proper notification throughout the parole process.