State Initiatives: Connecticut

The Council of State Governments Justice Center notes that in 2003, policymakers in Connecticut, facing an unprecedented budget deficit and a prison population growing faster than any other state, were presented with two options: release people from prison early or contract with other states for additional prison beds to relieve crowding. Instead they chose a third way — a justice reinvestment strategy.i With nearly unanimous support in the legislature, the state enacted laws that streamlined the parole process for low-risk offenders, addressed the high rate of probation violations, and developed a comprehensive strategy to reduce recidivism.ii

Approximately $13 million of the nearly $30 million saved from the reduced need for prisons was used to fund community-based diversion and probation programs that research indicates can sometimes produce a greater public safety benefit for each dollar spent.iii Probation violations dropped from 400 in July 2003 to 200 in September 2005.iv The decrease in the prison population over a two-year period was steeper than that seen in almost any other state while the crime rate continued to drop.v

Former Republican Governor Jodi Rell, who had been a strong supporter of community-based approaches backed by research for holding nonviolent offenders accountable, stated in December 2009 that her administration was able to close a prison because of: “a decline in the inmate population, the agency’s success with a number of post-release programs, and the need to find savings and efficiencies in state government.” Rell went on to note:

“Any decision such as this must always be made with public safety foremost in our minds … We face an extraordinarily difficult budget situation—a challenge unlike any we have known in modern memory … While other states—including states facing even more severe budget problems than our own—are being forced to build new prisons, we can make the most of our successes by building on these achievements.”vi

This prison closure, which is estimated to save $3.4 million, is a result of Connecticut’s effective policies to community-based approaches and reduce re-offending. Since the state began bolstering probation supervision and treatment, more offenders are successfully completing their probation and the crime rate has declined 6.3 percent.vii

i Council of State Governments Justice Center, Justice Reinvestment Connecticut Profile,
ii Ibid.
iii Ibid.
iv Ibid.
v Ibid.
vi Marc Levin, “What Conservatives Are Saying About Criminal Justice Reform,” Texas Public Policy Foundation, Jan. 2010,
vii Ibid.

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