Committee passes bill to extend sentences for public indecency

Hartford — The legislature’s Judiciary Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would lengthen the prison terms of inmates who expose themselves or masturbate in view of a corrections officer.

The legislation was suggested by Leo Arnone, commissioner of the state’s Department of Correction, who testified this month about groups of defiant inmates at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers and Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown who harass prison workers, particularly females, with these behaviors.

“The Department of Correction has tried every means at their disposal thus far and they’ve gotten the population that’s engaged in this down to about 40 inmates,” state Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said at Wednesday’s committee meeting. “These inmates say, ‘We’re not afraid of you, we’re not going to be dissuaded, and nothing you can do is going to change our behavior.’”

The bill aims to discourage the behavior by making “public indecency in a correctional institution” a Class D felony that is punishable by another consecutive one- to five-year prison sentence. The guilty inmates also would be required to register as sex offenders.

Kissel said the registry requirement could be a significant deterrent, as the inmates now engaging in this behavior usually are serving short-term sentences and wouldn’t want to live the rest of their lives as sex offenders.

“The intent here is to expose the inmates, no pun intended, to the possibility of getting on the sex-offender registry,” Kissel said

Under the bill, an act or exposure is deemed lewd if it “may reasonably be expected to be viewed by a reasonably identifiable employee of the Department of Correction.”

The bill passed the committee by a vote of 41-0.

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