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The legislature’s Judiciary Committee chairmen State Senator Andrew J. McDonald (D-Stamford) and State Representative Mike Lawlor (D-East Haven) today announced the speakers confirmed to testify at an upcoming informational hearing concerning a broad range of criminal justice concerns, specifically focusing on the state’s sentencing and re-entry process for repeat offenders.

“We will hear from state officials who will update the committee on recent administrative and procedural changes in our parole system that have been implemented in the aftermath of the Cheshire tragedy,” Sen. McDonald said. “Following that, the committee will be able to speak with a leading California prosecutor, who is also currently the head of the national prosecutors’ association, and two national corrections officials regarding corrections and parole reforms in other states.”

The national speakers attending were recommended by the non-partisan Justice Center, a part of the Council of State Governments, and by officials from the U.S. Department of Justice. Travel expenses for the speakers are being paid for by the U.S. Department of Justice at no cost to the state.

“It is important to stress that our committee is working in a bi-partisan manner as we proceed to evaluate and move forward with proposals,” Rep. Lawlor explained. “This forum will give everyone an opportunity to learn a lot about plea bargaining, sentencing, corrections and parole in Connecticut and around the country. We will seek fully-drafted legislative proposals from legislators and others after the hearing. Following this, fiscal notes and summaries for those proposals will be made available, and we will schedule a full public hearing on them as soon as possible.”

Both McDonald and Lawlor said their anticipated goals for this hearing and future committee hearings on the subject will be to:

Establish a new crime of “home invasion” and make it clear that it is a violent offense.
Re-write the current “persistent offender” and “three strikes” laws to make them more useable and require mandatory sentences.
Provide full funding for equipment and parole/probation officers that will allow for expanded use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and other mandatory supervision for non-violent offenders to make room in prisons for violent, serious repeat offenders.
Provide full funding for equipment and parole/probation officers that will allow for GPS monitoring during probation or parole for persons convicted of a home invasion.
Provide full public access to conviction information, including probation and parole information, for all serious offenders, including persons convicted of home invasion.
Ensure interoperability of all criminal justice databases to allow police, prosecutors, probation, parole, corrections, and judicial officials to communicate with one another electronically regarding all offenders and cases.
“The bottom line is we will do whatever it takes to make sure that what happened in Cheshire cannot happen again,” Rep. Lawlor said.

In addition, the co-chairmen have also submitted several requests to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Research and the Office of Fiscal Analysis to provide the committee with a variety of information regarding various related issues, such as a list of likely sites in Connecticut where new prisons could be built, the estimated time for completing the construction, and the costs associated with constructing and operating the facilities.

“The horrible toll this tragedy took on the Petit family cannot and will not be forgotten in our hearings,” Sen. McDonald said. “At the end of our proceedings, the Judiciary Committee will present a package of legislative reforms which will guarantee that.”

The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 11, at 1 PM in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Further meetings and public hearings will be announced at a later time.

State officials confirmed to testify on September 11 are:

Robert Farr, Chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Lisa Holden, Co-Chair of Governor Rell’s Sentencing and Parole Review Task Force and Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc.

Kevin Kane, Chief State’s Attorney.

Theresa Lantz, Commissioner of the Department of Correction.

National criminal justice officials confirmed to testify at the hearing:

James P. Fox is the District Attorney of California’s San Mateo County. He was first elected to this position in January 1983 and has been re-elected to every four years since. He also currently serves as the President of the National District Attorney’s Association. Prior to that, he was the President of the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA). Since 1991, he has been Chairman of the CDAA Legislative Committee.

Michael P. Jacobson is the current Director of the Vera Institute of Justice. Under former New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, he served as Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Correction from 1995 to 1998, and as Commissioner of the City’s Department of Probation from 1992 to 1996. Jacobson was appointed last year by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to serve on a panel of national experts to evaluate California's prison overcrowding and parolee recidivism problems.

George Keiser is Chief of the Community Corrections/Prisons Division of the National Institute of Corrections, which is part of the Federal Bureau of Prisons within the United States Department of Justice. He oversees NIC programs and services provided to 50 state departments of corrections and more than 1,400 state prisons in the U.S., commonwealths, and territories.