Written by: Andrew Marocchini
December 6, 2017
Connecticut has become a sanctuary state for many types of criminals allowing many to continuously reoffend and in some cases, provide de facto nolles on criminals that leave the state. Yes, it’s true you can be charged with a crime in Connecticut, flee to another state, never have to answer for those crimes, and it is not just the low-level offenders. This has become an increasingly common practice as the criminal community learns of this failure to deliver justice in the judicial system. Unfortunately for the citizens /victims, the state has given them some excellent tools to repeat offenders and those that wish to abscond. In part, it is because of certain types of pretrial release called the PTAs, Non Surety, and 10% Option. In addition, the state is reluctant to extradite, enter warrants NCIC, plea-bargains, early release etc. We might as well put a sign on 95 inviting criminals to do their crimes here. Prosecutions are low and the taxes on their earnings are even lower.
Please do not confuse this with a criticism or any specific individual or job. Many in Law Enforcement and judicial employees are doing their job exceptionally well, but their tools to do the job have been dulled. This is happening for the age-old reasons of money and politics. It costs a colossal amount of money to fund the system (CJD: 524 Million, DOC: 624 Million) and that is not even adding in the 92 municipal police departments and State Police.
The political issues are more complex. Politicians like to make laws, many of which are not needed, and seldom remove laws creating more of a burden on the system resulting in some laws not being enforced and some being over enforced. There are also political movements that impede the system. One movement I’m intimately familiar with is Bail Reform, which encompasses a belief that indigent minorities are languishing in jail for the lack of a few bucks to post bail. Prison overcrowding; we do not have the space to keep all of the people we convict and can’t afford to keep facilities open, nevermind build more. Plus you can not ignore the change in how we handle those with addiction and mental afflictions, which has turned into a catch and release which will never end.
To understand how this occurs you must know a few things about criminal procedure in Connecticut. When charged with a crime, the defendant is either released on a Promise to Appear(PTA) or one of several types of bail. Bail allows the accused to post a bond. The type and amount of the bond is determined by a judge, bail commissioner or police officer, or perhaps all three depending on which stage of the judicial process the defendant is in. Reasonable bail is a right given to us all and is in the 8th Amendment; the shortest and perhaps most overlooked Amendment we have. However, without the protection of the 8th Amendment many abuses can take place.
PTAs and Non-surety bonds are the most common type of release because it’s the least restrictive, totaling 84,505 of the 143,816 custodial arrests in 2016. These types of releases where once intended to be used for low-level offenders with little criminal history, but that has changed. It now includes offenders with significant history. The 10% Option is one type of bail that can be ordered by a judge. It is commonly used by the more liberal judges that have been indoctrinated into the “Bail Reform Agenda”. The premise of the argument for 10% is that it will allow the defendants to receive their 10% back once they have a disposition in their case. However, like many of the Bail Reform concepts, it has major issues in practice.
The prolific use of PTAs has resulted in a large number of reoffenders and Failure to Appears, totaling 70% of the 2016 forfeitures, many of which are still open today resulting in a change in the mindset of the criminal population. They have learned that they can reoffend with little to no consequence, so they flee the state with no issues. The 10% option is being used extensively in 2017, unfortunately it’s too early to obtain the reports. 10% has some majors flaws; Connecticut already had an option for the accused to post bail in cash and receive it back if all of their options are fulfilled. When a judge sets a cash or surety bond they have the choice of posting cash or surety. There is no need for the 10% option other than to directly attack the private bail industry. I believe it is also an attempt to deliver the results our industry provides. In addition, The 10% Options alleged intention is to provide a way for the “indigent” defendants to save some money. However, the reality is those defendants need payment plans which result in them using bondsman anyway. The only defendants that benefit from 10% are the ones that didn’t need it in the first place, giving those that have money a unique opportunity.
The more sophisticated defendants have realized that if you post the PTA, Non-surety or 10% Option, no cosigner is needed and the penal amount of the bond is never collected. You combine this with the fact that Connecticut seldom extradite (the process of bringing a defendant from one state to the other) and you have what amounts to the defendant purchasing his move out-of-state.
On a traditional bond, defendants have to provide collateral. This means they have some incentive to go to court because they run the risk of losing something. 10% Options do not do this, yet this is one of the reasons bail is so effective. The other reason is that the bondsman have the obligation to make sure the defendant shows up to court, which means if the accused absconds, the bondsman will find them, arrest them, and return them to Connecticut. PTA, Non-Surety and 10% simply can not do that. So why doesn’t the state try to collect the penal amount of the bond or send police officers to apprehend these defendants? Again, the biggest reason is MONEY and a healthy dose of politics.
CJD and DOC also have the additional issue of volume which results in plea-bargains and early release programs, which again diminish the consequences. The vast majority of cases never go to trial. In some courts it’s over 90%, which means defendants are put into special programs. Most of the programs are simply a feel good band-aid and do little to help the defendant, citizens of CT or the victims. Nearly 70% reoffend in less than 3 years. That is old nation data but I’m sure its the same or worse in CT proving these programs do very little (well, with the exception of spending precious tax dollars).
Law Enforcement being scrutinized at every move is perhaps justifiable in some cases, but that has resulted in a very bad anti-police mindset further exacerbating the problem. This is resulting in bad moral and lack of incentive to performance. Why enforce the law risk injury and scrutiny when the are little to no consequences for the defendants? Budgeting is always and issue and certainly worse when there is ill will.
In conclusion, I believe we need to face the reality that we simply do not have enough resources to uphold all of the laws. By having many laws we have essentially undermined the validity of the system. Its time to take looks at what laws are important and how we enforce them then end the debate on what is fair or not fair. Create reasonable consequences and hold those that choose to violate accountable. The LE, judicial, taxpayers and victims are not getting the system they deserve.