By Malta Justice Initiative – See more at: http://www.connecticutplus.com/cplus/information/news/News_1/The-Malta-Justice-Initiative-convenes-a-coalition-to-call-for-reform-of-state-s-criminal-justice-system2228522285.shtml#sthash.NXvHwM4T.dpuf
The Malta Justice Initiative is part of the Order of Malta, founded during the eleventh century by Catholic business people. The mission of this lay organization, which has over 13,000 members worldwide, is to help sick and poor people of all faith traditions.
The beleaguered criminal justice system now costs Connecticut taxpayers in excess of $1 billion annually. The Department of Correction’s budget alone reached $645.3 million in 2013. Yet, 9 out of 10 of prisoners are addicts and/or mentally ill and many are incarcerated for non-violent crimes. Ninety-five percent of Connecticut prisoners are eventually released but well over half end up back in prison due to a lack of an effective treatment and support system in their post-release reentry period.
To underscore the desperate need for reform, the Malta Justice Initiative has published The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked the American Dream (Significance Press 2014). The book’s principal writer, Brian E. Moran, is a partner in the Stamford office of law firm Robinson + Cole. In writing this book, the editorial board of The Malta Justice Initiative has brought together an eclectic group consisting of people of all faith traditions; past and present criminal justice workers; elected officials; former inmates; business leaders, lawyers and academics to address effective alternatives to incarceration.
The purpose of the book is threefold:
To lay out the causes and extent of the problems overwhelming the Connecticut criminal justice system;
To explain why reform is overdue and in the best interests of all the citizens of the state;
And to initiate reforms that are showing positive results in other states.
Today’s criminal justice system reflects what society has demanded of elected officials since the 1970s, when a philosophy of “lock them up and throw away the key” began to take hold. The war on drugs waged over the past four decades by both Republican and Democratic administrations led to stricter sentencing policies (e.g. three-strike laws, inordinately difficult parole conditions and mandatory minimums) and less use of probation, parole and alternatives to incarceration
The Malta Justice Initiative believes that being smart on crime can enhance public safety by redirecting resources toward rehabilitation and treatment, reducing recidivism, lowering overall operating costs, providing fairer justice and lessening the negative impact to Connecticut communities.
An inordinate portion of prisoners in Connecticut are economically disadvantaged inner city youths convicted of victimless crimes, usually as a result of an addiction or/and mental illness. This reflects national trends where, for example, there are now more black people in American prisons today than were in slavery in the 1850s.
At the heart of the problem is that 95 percent of offenders are released back into the community ill-equipped and often under supervised. Convicted felons, including those for minor drug infractions, often cannot find jobs, are ineligible for public assistance, denied some occupational licenses and cannot apply for student loans and grants. The result is a revolving door criminal justice system where more than 50 percent of offenders wind up back in jail within three years.
Criminal justice reform in other states has succeeded because of drug and mental health treatments, vocational training and post release support for inmates to stabilize their lives as parents and family members and help them find jobs. Principal writer Brian Moran identifies 30 specific reform recommendations that would yield the following benefits:
Reduce Connecticut’s prison population substantially within five years;
Reduce Connecticut’s recidivism rate by 30 percent within five years, and;
Reduce state spending on the prison system dramatically five years, with two-thirds of the savings reinvested in drug and mental health treatments, educational and vocational training and post-release support and supervision.
Members of Malta Justice Initiative have launched a speakers program addressing faith, business and academic audiences with the goal of galvanizing public opinion to create a more effective, efficient and compassionate criminal justice system. It is their hope that that Connecticut residents will contact their local legislators demanding prison reform and more substantially successful re-integration of formerly incarcerated persons back into their community.