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Connecticut Cuts Incarceration in Half, Decreases Crime

In 1999, Connecticut's prison population was so high that the state had to pay to send 500 prisoners to be incarcerated in Virginia. Since then, the state has halved its prison population while simultaneously closing more than 10 prisons and reducing its crime rate to its lowest level in over four decades, Slate reports. Connecticut has 13 prisons that can hold up to 10,000 prisoners. About two-thirds of them are serving sentences, and the rest are people who haven't been convicted yet. The state's prison-to-prison population ratio is currently 155 people imprisoned per 100,000 residents, which is the 9th lowest in the U.S. and way below the national rate of 350 per 100,000 residents. The state’s work in reducing the number of incarcerated individuals has also declined crime. Violent crime decreased 43 percent from 2012 to 2021, while property crime sank 29 percent during the same period. “We’ve shown over a 15-year period how to do [criminal justice reform] right,” said current state Rep. Steve Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport, the state’s most populous city. “I actually wish other states spent more time looking to Connecticut.”

Connecticut’s push to reform its criminal justice system started after Dannel Malloy became governor in 2011 when the state unleashed a range of changes, including repealing the death penalty, bumping the age at which juveniles could be charged as adults from 16 to 18 for most crimes, and eliminating some sentencing guidelines that affected predominantly people of color. Malloy said the state not only had built too many prisons but had a mix of old buildings and new prisons built for maximum punishment, instead of facilities where people could be rehabilitated. One reform is the TRUE unit at the Cheshire Correctional Institute. The acronym stands for Truthfulness (to oneself and others), Respectfulness (toward the community), Understanding (ourselves and what brought us here), and Elevating (into success). The unit combines incarcerated men aged 18 to 25 with older imprisoned men who act as mentors. Malloy said his goal as governor was not to close prisons but change laws that were unfair and overhaul the system so that incarcerated people could be rehabilitated before they were released.


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