If you thought Democrats in the General Assembly wanted to act quickly on criminal justice reform, guess again. The other story from last week's special session of the legislature was the fact that Democrats utterly abdicated their responsibility to act on reforms to the system which are clearly needed in the wake of the recent Cheshire murders.
House and Senate Republicans called for immediate reforms which would make needed changes to the Parole Board review process, strengthening repeat offender laws, reclassify burglary as a "violent" crime, and create a legitimate "Three Strikes" law, landing a third time serious felon in prison for life.
The other piece of news which makes fast action critical on these reforms is the case of Arnold Bell, a career criminal who most recently shot a New haven police officer, that the state Supreme Court ruled on earlier this month. It struck down sections of Connecticut's existing persistent offenders law, and said the jury, not the judge, had discretion on sentencing.
The serious holes in Connecticut's criminal justice laws which the Cheshire case has exposed, coupled with the ruling on the Bell case makes quick action by the legislature imperative. Unfortunately, Democrats have flatly rejected immediate action, voting by party line to oppose taking up reforms.
Judiciary Co-Chairman Andrew McDonald cheapened and trivialized the issue when he sniffed "Legislating by bumper sticker motto is not the way to go."
The other Co-Chairman, Representative Michael Lawlor, says we need to wait for recommendations from criminal justice agencies.
Presumably, this means they want to wait until the next session which is in February of '08. Then we can go through hearing, get testimony and blah blah blah. That session will end in May of '08.
In the meantime we'll just have to hope no one will die in the next eight months because of a failure to reform the system.