DANBURY, Conn. -- State Rep. Stephen Harding (R-Danbury) voted against a proposal that authors say would give drug offenders a second chance at turning their lives around by making drug possession a simple misdemeanor.
S.B. 952, An Act Concerning a Second Chance Society, would lessen the possession of any narcotic or controlled substance to a misdemeanor offense. It also would shrink the current drug-free school zone distance from 1,500 feet to only include the school property in cases of possession.
“I would certainly be in support of this bill if it truly was a second chance as it’s labeled,” said Harding. “But it’s not. There are already so many diversionary programs for individuals charged with simple possession: a drug education program, a community service labor program (which gives defendants two chances at enrollment), and CADAC (Certified Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor) – a treatment program that erases charges from a defendant’s record upon completion.
"This is in no way a second chance society. It’s three, four, five chances before an individual takes the felony conviction. Governor [Dannel] Malloy’s proposal passed out of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee in the dead of the night on Friday, April 10, on a 22-20 vote."
“As someone who works in the criminal law system, I know first-hand that it is extremely rare for an individual to be charged for the first time with simple possession and face incarceration. The notion that individuals charged with possession are being taken immediately from the streets and directly to jail is false. I do not believe this will have any impact on the prison population at all," added Harding.
Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane also disputed the notion that those arrested for first time drug possession are serving time in prison.
“As part of the plea negotiations in these situations – according to the statute changes – a prosecutor will be able to substitute a defendant’s charge with simple possession. This means that individuals walking into court facing a charge of intent to sell or the actual sale of narcotics could walk out with only a misdemeanor. There are dire consequences in this that we need to consider,” said Harding.
The bill has the possibility of being referred to the legislature’s Education Committee.
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