Justice Reinvestment in Connecticut

In 2003, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Connecticut to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges. With overwhelming bipartisan support, in 2004, Connecticut became the first state in the country to enact Justice Reinvestment legislation.

The Problem

In 2004, Connecticut’s prison population had increased 7 percent over the preceding 4 years and the state’s prisons were over capacity by 2,000 people.

How Justice Reinvestment Helped

Between 2003 and 2004, the CSG Justice Center worked with Connecticut state leaders to analyze Connecticut’s criminal justice data, interview stakeholders from across the criminal justice system, and develop data-driven policy options designed to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety. With overwhelming bipartisan support, in 2004, Connecticut became the first state in the country to enact Justice Reinvestment legislation, which

  • Established programs to reduce by at least 20 percent the number of people on probation or parole who are incarcerated as a result of technical violations;
  • Required parole hearings to be held in a timely manner, including mandating people convicted of serious offenses to receive a parole hearing after serving 85 percent of their sentences; and
  • Required the state to develop a comprehensive reentry strategy to promote successful transition from incarceration to the community.

Implementation and Impacts

The state reinvested $13 million in reentry programs and initiatives in 2005. After enactment of the law, individuals housed out of state returned to Connecticut, and recidivism rates, measured as return to prison within two years following release, decreased 2 percentage points between 2004 and 2008. In 2006, the legislature established within the Office of Policy and Management the Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division, which is charged with promoting a more effective and cohesive criminal justice system. Connecticut went from having one of the highest prison growth rates in the country in 2002 to having one of the most rapidly declining prison populations in 2013.

What we demonstrated is that so-called Justice Reinvestment has a tangible impact not only on prison growth but also public safety. From day one we’ve had this very explicit explanation of what our priorities were, and that was to reduce crime, reduce spending and restore confidence in the criminal justice system.
Mike Lawlor
Former Connecticut House Judiciary Committee Chairman and founding Advisory Board Member of the CSG Justice Center