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Connecticut Gov. Malloy Seeks Bail Bond Reform

Hundreds of Connecticut residents continue to languish in jail, often for minor offenses, because they can't afford bail. Credit: Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons.
Hundreds of Connecticut residents continue to languish in jail, often for minor offenses, because they can't afford bail. Credit: Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons.
November 10, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. – Governor Dannel Malloy says he wants the state to explore ways to reform the bail bond system in Connecticut.

Nonviolent offenses like drug possession or even traffic tickets can land a person in jail. Once bail is set, release can often be secured for 10 percent or less of the bail amount.

However, Patrick Gallahue of the Connecticut ACLU says many low-income residents with bail set under $20,000 are spending weeks or months in jail – and the results can be life-altering.

"A person who remains in jail loses their job, their house and sometimes even their family," he says, "just because they can't afford to post bail."

Malloy has asked Correction Commissioner Scott Semple to develop a plan to supervise low-risk, pre-trial detainees in the community.

Speaking at a Connecticut Law Review symposium on Friday, the governor said the state must ensure that the criminal justice system is guided by the severity of the crime, not by an individual's wealth, income or privilege.

"At this very moment there are hundreds of low risk offenders sitting in Connecticut jails, pre-trial, on low bond," he said. "Cash alternatives as low as $250."

According to Malloy, some are waiting for trial on offenses that wouldn't even result in any jail time.

Prolonged pre-trial detention is also a drain on state resources. In Connecticut it costs about $120 a night to keep someone in jail. Bail reform has become an issue in many states, and Gallahue says the public supports those efforts.

"In New Jersey, bail reform was passed by referendum," he says. "So I think the public understands nobody should remain in jail simply because they're too poor to secure their release."

Washington, D.C. has virtually eliminated cash bail, and almost 90 percent of those released return for trial.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT