The Second Chance Society legislation, proposed by Governor Malloy and approved by lawmakers in special session this week, is being criticized by a local lawmaker. Brookfield state Representative Steve Harding, an attorney, opposed the measure, saying that substance abuse treatment on a second arrest is already practiced. He says by the time someone gets an actual conviction on a drug possession crime, they've gone through three, four, or five diversionary programs.
Harding says there's a drug education program, a community service labor program--which can be used twice--and a treatment program where someone can once again walk out of court without anything on their record.
Harding says this could have an indirect impact on drug sale laws, if not a direct effect. He gave the example of a plea negotiation for someone charged with sale or intent to sell, gets convicted of possession of narcotics, and walking out with a misdemeanor conviction.
Harding says laws should be created to deter people from using drugs rather than pardoning it.
He says there are many other aggravating factors for those in jail on a simple drug possession conviction.
Connecticut officials and policy experts say the state's drug laws will transform from some of the most draconian in the country to some of the most lenient this fall. That's when most drug possession crimes will become misdemeanors instead of felonies. The changes include eliminating a mandatory two-year prison term for possessing drugs within 1,500 feet of a school.
State officials estimate the new law will save Connecticut about $19 million in prison costs over the next two years by decreasing the prison population.