On February 18th, 2016, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center welcomed Iran Nazario, Director of COMPASS Peacebuilders and Community Outreach, and Mike Lawlor, Under Secretary of Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, to discuss criminal justice reform in Connecticut.

As the Under Secretary for Policy, Mr. Lawlor highlighted promising results from recent policy changes, and spoke to the future of Connecticut’s reform efforts. Since 2009, the state has successfully reduced crime and incarceration rates. Sustaining that reduction has led to a host of proposed additional reforms, including: changes in sentencing laws for certain offenses, raising the age for juveniles, and adopting strategies to address mental health. “Prison is a very difficult environment for rehabilitation,” Mr. Lawlor stated, “and it is much easier to rehabilitate if we can prevent people from getting there in the first place.”

Mr. Lawlor cited recent studies that if youth can avoid incarceration prior to the age of 25, their risk of incarceration diminishes significantly. Mr. Nazario echoed Mr. Lawlor’s call for early intervention, emphasizing prevention programs and transition plans for juveniles that are high risk or court-involved. The COMPASS Peacebuilders program, for example, provides participants with an individualized success plan, and 24/7 on-call support for kids in crisis.

Mr. Nazario also reflected on the importance of strong relations between law enforcement and the community. “Better relationships will lead to a sharing of information, and in turn, a reduction in crime. This will improve the quality of life for everyone,” he noted. Requiring transition plans for the formerly incarcerated, and enhanced training for police officers, “will ultimately help all of us achieve better outcomes.”

To learn more about COMPASS Peacebuilders, click here.