DANBURY, Conn. – Connecticut needs to focus on treatment instead of prison for nonviolent drug offenders, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in an appearance Monday at the Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism in Danbury.
Malloy stopped by the addiction service provider Monday to talk about his “Second Chance Society” initiatives. The initiatives seek to reduce crime rates through reforms such as reclassifying nonviolent drug possessions as misdemeanors, eliminating mandatory minimum prison sentences and providing greater access to treatment, employment and housing.
“What we’re trying to do is not so radical. It’s the basic idea that addiction is a malady, it’s a treatable malady, and we shouldn’t treat it in all cases as a crime, and we shouldn’t treat it as a felony,” Malloy said.
According to the governor, 500 people are incarcerated for nonviolent drug possession, costing the state $120 a night each. He wants to reduce penalties for people arrested for possession only, not for selling drugs. Most locations in cities fall under the umbrella of drug-free zones, such as near schools or public housing, which leads to people facing felony charges for nonviolent drug possession within their own homes, he said.
“It has a hugely disproportionate impact on people of color,” Malloy said.
The governor has faced criticism from some state legislators who take issue with his characterization of current laws as racist. But Malloy said he would not stop talking about the laws in terms of their racial impact.
“I’m not going to back away from it because it has a massive disparate impact on our black and brown populations here in the state of Connecticut,” he said.
The state received $7 million Monday in federal grants to provide greater access to drug and alcohol addiction treatment. The money will be used by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to provide individuals with services such as recovery assessment, recovery management, housing assistance, employment and job training services, educational services and transportation.
Joe Sullivan, president and CEO of MCCA, praised Malloy’s initiatives, saying that people with addictions and in recovery often face discrimination, which is made harder when they have felony convictions. They were also joined by MCCA client Eric, who has struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for a decade.
“Incarceration gave me a certain absence from my addiction, but it didn’t help me with my underlying issues that I was faced with,” Eric said. He sought treatment from MCCA, and is now 15 months sober and working as a chef.
“Every day is a good day, better than what my days used to be. I’m a productive member of society today. I pay my bills on time, I pay my taxes. I know there’s a lot of people out there who are afraid and don’t think recovery is possible, but it is.”
MCCA, Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism, is the primary provider of substance abuse prevention, evaluation and treatment services Danbury, New Milford, Bethel, Ridgefield, Waterbury, Derby, Torrington, New Haven, Kent and Sharon.
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