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Conn. Senate Republicans release anti-crime proposals, Democrats are unconvinced

 State Senator Kevin Kelly
Image from CT-N video.
State Senator Kevin Kelly

Claiming that crime is escalating in Connecticut, state Senate Republicans today proposed making it easier to move some young people accused of breaking the law from juvenile court to adult court.

Underage defendants face more serious penalties if their cases are transferred to adult court. Republicans want more crimes to qualify for automatic transfers, including cases involving serious repeat juvenile offenders.

Under current law, some of the most serious charges against young people are automatically sent to adult court. GOP lawmakers want to alter the standards used by judges to determine if young people accused of carrying out other crimes should have their cases sent to adult court.

“We need to make sure that a juvenile that commits a horrible crime can get moved into the adult court,” said John Kissel, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Senate Republican.

Kissel says that under current law, young people accused of crimes like stalking or car theft might not be automatically transferred.

“If someone goes into your yard, your home, your garage, and steals something, probably the second biggest asset a person has other than their home, your sense of security in your own home has now been undermined,” Kissel said.

Democratic Sen. Gary Winfield, co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, says state’s attorneys already have the option of asking a judge to send juvenile cases to adult court.

“I’m just unconvinced that putting juveniles into the adult system makes a lot of sense,” Winfield said.

He disputed Republican claims that young people will get better services in adult court.

The proposal is part of a package of state Senate Republican law enforcement plans.

The GOP lawmakers want to undo some of the police reforms approved last year in response to the death of George Floyd. The Republicans want to alter part of the law dealing with qualified immunity for police officers.

They also want young people accused of a crime to go before a judge more quickly and to be held in custody longer when authorities seek a detention order.

Republican senators stressed the importance of rehabilitative services for young people. They said they won’t throw money at law enforcement.

Many of the Republican ideas face an uncertain future in the General Assembly given that Democrats have a majority in both chambers.

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio

Matt Dwyer produces The Wheelhouse, WNPR's journalist round table and news analysis show. He also and reports for the station. Counting his time in college, Matt has been doing news on the radio in Connecticut since 1996, at stations including WTIC AM, WILI AM/FM, and WHUS FM. He has won regional Murrow Awards and Connecticut AP Awards.
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