HARTFORD — State Rep. Rob Sampson today challenged legislative Democrats for a hastily written budget bill that eliminates mandatory jail time for chronic drunken drivers while giving many inmates, including sex offenders, the possibility of early release for “good” behavior while behind bars. Those provisions, and others, were secretly inserted into a large “implementer” bill—a type of legislation that powers the governor’s two-year budget plan. What’s more, Sampson contends many concepts included in the implementer bill focus more on state policy changes rather than the intended purpose—the state budget. Even worse, in a complete lack of transparency, Democrats used this particular implementer bill to circumvent the committee process.
The bill allows repeat drunken driving offenders to serve little or no jail time, regardless of the number of convictions, subject to the total discretion of the corrections commissioner. Sampson said the bill, if enacted into law, would see Connecticut set a new standard for going easy on DWI convictions.
“This legislature just sent a terrible message to the people of this state by eroding the great work others have done to get tough on drunken drivers,” Sampson said. “They just gave a political appointee the authority to determine how an inmate’s sentence will be carried out.”
Sampson was particularly shocked by the Democrat plan to give inmates—including sex offenders—a bright path to early release should they simply behave while in prison.
“Under this bill, pedophiles will be allowed to have time taken off their sentence for being a model inmate,” said Sampson, who saw Democrats kill an amendment to remove convicted sex offenders for the pool of inmates eligible for “good” time credit. “How can they explain that to their neighbors?”
Democrats approved H.B. 6650 by a 93 to 52 as they deflect criticism over bogus savings in their $1.6 billion union concession package and scramble to balance their controversial “balanced” budget.
“Taxpayers of this state deserve transparency in government,” Sampson said. “I’m willing to bet residents will be shocked as they learn more about what was passed here today.”
DWI convictions typically draw prison time after three offenses, depending on circumstances. There would be no mandatory time under the provision adopted in today’s bill. Lengths of potential mandatory sentences wouldn’t change, but the commissioner could sentence offenders to serve that time at home.
Offenders currently serving jail time could also be released if the corrections commissioner deems it appropriate. The provision was written into the 298-page budget implementation bill that covered changes affecting the judicial branch, public safety and criminal justice systems among others.
Many of the controversial proposals slipped into the bill were concepts presented in a different light during previous committee meetings. Some were even concepts that didn’t survive those meetings yet were brought back as part o this proposal. “If votes make no difference,” Sampson said, “why have committee meetings?”