By Kenyatta Muzzanni via Northend Agent’s
The Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice is a grassroots, community-based organization devoted to developing the people, policies, institutions, and movements that advance equity, health, and justice for everyone. We do this through 3 interrelated goals:
• Building the leadership and organizing capacity of neighborhood residents, as well as organizers, advocates, and community members, to effectively drive and shape real change;
• Ending mass criminalization, mass incarceration, and the war on drugs; and
• Advancing evidence-based solutions to achieve equitable, healthier, more safe communities.
InKatal’s Corner, we’ll share updates on our campaigns, like #FreeThemNowCT and #CutShutINVEST, issues in the criminal justice field at-large, a rundown of the latest statewide legislative updates out of Hartford, and more!
This past May, Connecticut concluded its legislative session. Even numbered years like 2022 are referred to as the “short session,” because it runs from February to May. During these sessions, only the Committee Chairs or the Governor can introduce legislation (or bills), which are typically related to the state’s budget. This is in contrast to the odd numbered years when the session run from January to June, and are known as the “long session.” In the long session, like 2023, individual legislators (or lawmakers) can put forth any legislation.
During this session, Katal tracked and supported a number of important bills related to criminal justice reform. A short list of key legislation that we supported are:
• SB 460, An Act Concerning Compassionate or Medical Parole and Credits Awarded for Release During An Emergency Declaration. Connecticut remains without a comprehensive or transparent plan to manage COVID-19 in the DOC. SB 460 falls short of making an impactful change to save lives. Katal only supported SB 460 if it included significant amendments. Because the legislature did not amend SB 460, Katal will be back next session organizing until they #FreeThemNowCT.
Below are our proposed amendments to SB 460:
o Expand the public health emergency release credits to all incarcerated people – regardless of charge or amount of time left on their sentence;
o Change who is eligible for the compassionate release, ensuring that there are no carve outs based on original conviction (CT abolished the death penalty and no incarcerated person should be subjected to life threatening conditions that defy public health recommendations);
o Prioritize those who have compromised immune systems, disabilities, and co- morbidities for release;
o Create an independent council of public health experts, or an addition of public health experts to the BOPP, to monitor proposed releases;
o Require the DOC to publicly report on the public health emergency release credits and the number of people who applied and received compassionate or medical parole.
• SB 448, An Act Requiring the Development of A Plan Concerning The Delivery Of Health Care And Mental Health Care Services To [Incarcerated People]. Like the title implies, SB 448 ensures that the Dept. of Corrections (DOC)
provides more medical and mental health care to incarcerated people. SB 448 was signed into law by the Governor. This effort was fought for and won by the Regulate DOC Health Care coalition, convened by the YWCA of Greater Hartford. Katal is grateful to sit on this coalition, and to have our members testify in support.
• SB 459, An Act Concerning the Correction Advisory Committee, The Use of Isolated Confinement and Transparency for Conditions Of Incarceration. This legislation restricts the use of solitary confinement, and creates an ombudsman in the DOC. After several years, the Governor signed SB 459 also known as The PROTECT Act, into law this session. Stop Solitary CT has been leading this charge for years.
HB 5248, An Act Concerning Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions On Occupational Licensing. Stemming from a year-long study on the consequences of a criminal record, this bill is meant to ease the restrictions people with criminal convictions face when seeking licensure in certain fields. This bill was signed into law after advocacy from the ACLU-CT.
There were also a few bills we opposed this session, including:
• HB 5417, An Act Concerning Juvenile Justice and Services, Firearms Background Checks, And Larceny of A Motor Vehicle. Simply put, HB 5417 is dangerous, and will disproportionately have a negative impact on poor, Black, and brown young people. It gives police greater flexibility to detain young people, requires GPS monitoring for young people arrested (but not convicted) of a crime, and more. This was signed into law by the Governor in May.
At Katal, we hold a monthly Connecticut Statewide Criminal Justice Reform Call. The goals of the CT Statewide Criminal Justice Reform Call are to:
• Highlight issues, campaigns, and projects that groups are working on to advance statewide reform;
• Identify ways to align, coordinate, and support each other in the work to end mass incarceration in Connecticut;
• Strengthen community organizing and advocacy organizations to build movement in Connecticut.
To join the next CT Statewide Criminal Justice Reform Call on Thursday, September 1 from 11:00-12:00 pm, register here: katal.info/CTCJReformCall
For more information on Katal, go to katalcenter.org, or connect with us on socials @katalcenter. To get involved with Katal, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next month!