The United States is known as the world leader when it comes to incarceration. With nearly 7 million people under correctional control, 2 million people in prisons, and 4.6 million under community surveillance, probation, or parole, a whopping total of at least 19 million people are expected to be living with a felony conviction and 100 million others with criminal records.
In addition to how persistent the criminal justice system has become of strict disciplinary sentencing laws and policies and battling racial disparities within the system, it has led to many states in recent years enacting reforms to reduce the scale of ever-increasing incarcerations and collateral consequences.
Following are the key bills passed with changes, or failed to surpass during the 2021 legislative session.
One of the major criminal justice reforms on the list was sentence modifications that got huge bipartisan support for broadening the realms of incarcerated people’s eligibility for sentence modifications without involving a state attorney. It would give them a chance at serving less than seven years and bypassing the prosecutor’s blessing. Prisoners sentenced to a long time after trial would also be eradicated from going through a state attorney, even a rare situation.
Connecticut prison gerrymandering has been on the criminal reform list since 2018, with NAACP filing a lawsuit and lobbying for the bill. The focus shifted towards the bill, especially this year as the redistricting process is to be completed soon enough, so the NAACP argues that the practice needs to end now. The bill previously would get lost among the back and forth of House and Senate. However, this time around, it passed, allotting victory to almost 10,000 people in prison who are incarcerated away from families and hometowns.
Along with the sentence modifications bill, a provision will dramatically reduce the scope of laws that increase penalties for drug crimes occurring in drug-free zones. As of now, the possession and sale of drugs within 1500 feet of daycare centers, public housing societies, or school zones would result in a punitive penalty. With that big of a gap accounting to areas, it may envelop the entire city. Hence, the bill reduced the area by up to 200 feet and was unanimously passed in the House and only three votes from the Senate.
A clean slate is a measure that automatically puts certain misdemeanors, low-level felonies, and not as serious convictions of people on the radar to be invisible for a certain number of years. Many Republicans were evidently against it, saying that “the bill went too far.” At the same time, others favored it, saying that it is bound to give more resources to the Board of Pardons and Paroles for assessing the risks instead of erasing records with time. There was also a third party that said that more crimes should have been advocated for erasure. However, the long-running clean slate battle has finally seen the light of day, so there is much hope for the future to be even brighter.
One of the most popular bills that are being fought for many years now, recreational marijuana use has become the bane of existence for certain states. However, this most-known bill wasn’t passed as both the lawmakers’ chambers stood against recreational marijuana legalization. Republicans were early to the forefront, threatening that the clock may run out, so the Democrats caught up with releasing the bill with senate approval and the House not making the call before the session ended. Many people say that it was a missed opportunity on the House’s side that could have made the ever so subtle difference. But the battle continues.
Considering the criminal justice reforms for the year 2021, one might say that these were long-lost delayed responses to many situations that required reforms fairly early. However, progress at the end of the day is appreciative whether delayed because better late than never.
Suppose you have been charged with a crime (i.e., Larceny or a Drug offense) or a serious traffic violation (i.e., DWI or Reckless Driving) in Fairfax County. In that case, you need a trusted lawyer with updated information about these crime reforms that can aggressively represent you in the matter.