This article was originally posted in the New Haven Independent.
Philadelphia— A week after Republicans nominated a presidential candidate vowing to take a tough stand against criminals, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that his fellow Democrats need to embrace strategies that reduce prison populations and risk being labeled “weak on crime.”
The Washington Post transformed a Philadelphia gastropub called the City Tap House into its headquarters for the Democratic National Convention. It invited party leaders like Malloy to talk about criminal justice Monday, the first day of the convention.
Malloy said Democrats from mayors on up need to embrace strategies that divert people from prison, especially young black and Hispanic men away from the prison system because he said it’s good for society.
He pointed to Connecticut’s passage of part of his proposed Second Chance Society reforms, including doing away with mandatory imprisonment for possessing a drug within 1,500 feet of facilities such as schools and day care centers.
“In New Haven, almost 97 percent of people lived within 1,500 feet of [such a facility]. Same in Hartford and Bridgeport, our three highest crime communities,” Malloy told the crowd. “But if you lived in Darien, most don’t live within 1,500 feet. For the exact same crime, same drug, you didn’t have a mandatory sentence. We’ve done away with that because we came to understand that though [the law] wasn’t intended to be racially or poverty discriminatory, it was in practice. We have to confront the idea that when there are very disparate results, we have to do something about that.”
Malloy said states like Connecticut that have made more efforts to innovate and divert people from jail have not only seen a lowering of their prison population, but also a decrease in crime.
The governor shared the stage with Glenn E. Martin, the founder of JustLeadershipUSA founder, who also was once incarcerated at New York’s Rikers Island. He pointed out that science shows that when it comes to young black and Hispanic men, the tolerance for risk taking drops as they get older.
Malloy agreed, suggesting that the country doesn’t sell alcohol to people under 21, but treats people as young as 16 as if they had the same maturity as an adult.
Malloy urged Democrats to summon the will to face criticism for being weak on crime to enact legislation that gets results by finding alternatives to incarceration.
“I’m trying lead national discussion on this issue,” he said. “Smarter criminal justice helps reduce crime. If we could keep people out of jail, if we could do that substantial numbers, we’ll be a safer society. Once you’re incarcerated your chances for success goes down precipitously. Let’s take this opportunity to exploit every other opportunity to keep young people out jail."