Bipartisan juvenile justice reform bill clears committee

March 30, 2022

Bipartisan juvenile justice reform bill clears committee

(Waterbury Republican American)

Democratic and Republican legislators picked up the pieces after bipartisan talks on juvenile justice reform broke down last August to forge a compromise seven months later.

An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee approved a bill that proposes changes along lines that Democrats and Republicans each have advocated, and also incorporated recommendations from Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont.

“While I think nobody got everything they wanted, I think there is plenty of common ground here,” said Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, the ranking Senate member.

Only four Democrats opposed House Bill 5417 in Monday’s vote, while the 20 other Democrats and all 15 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee backed the legislation.

The legislation increases from six hours to eight hours the time police can hold a juvenile while they apply for a detention order, or seek a parent or guardian to release a youth from custody. 

The bill also provides more immediate arraignment and services for juvenile offenders; expands provisions for imposing special juvenile probation in the case of murder or first degree manslaughter; and allows courts to extend sentences for serious homicide, firearm and sexual offenses up to 60 months.

Connecticut has been embroiled in a debate over youth crime following a series of highly publicized crimes involving juveniles last year.

Kissel said he was unsure if the two parties would agree on anything when the 2022 legislative session opened Feb. 9. 

He was far from alone.

Kissel said there was movement on both the Democratic and Republican sides in the Judiciary Committee negotiations.

“The fact there was a little bit of concern from the far left and there was a little bit of concern from the far right means we are trying to find that sort of Goldilocks point, right, where it is just right in the middle,” he said.

The legislation authorizes Superior Court judges to order electronic monitoring of juveniles who are released from custody following an arrest for a second offense for car theft or theft of property.