Crime, arrests, prison population again decline in Connecticut

Crime, arrests and the prison population again declined in Connecticut last year, according to a Criminal Justice Policy and Planning brief, but murders were up while the number of incarcerated women has remained steady.

Written by Under Secretary Mike Lawlor of the state Office of Policy and Management, the newly released brief said 71,883 index crimes — or crimes that have victims — were reported in 2017, the lowest since 1967.

But the number of murders rose from 78 in 2016 to 105 last year, even though Bridgeport has had six so far this year compared to 19 in 2017.

Lawlor said 105 murders still is less than half of what was typical in the early- to mid-1990s. The state has seen fewer than 100 murders just five times in the past 40 years, he said, including three times since 2013.

Property and violent crimes have decreased 19 percent since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took office in 2011, Lawlor said.

Nationally, FBI statistics show, violent crime rose in 2015 and 2016 before decreasing by 0.2 percent last year.

“Recently enacted criminal justice reforms … are showing real results,” Malloy said in a news release. “In fact, other states are looking to Connecticut as an example of smart policy reforms that are having a positive impact.”

Speaking by phone Monday afternoon, Lawlor listed some of the things Connecticut has done, including creating units for inmates who struggle with addiction or are veterans and, more recently, launching programs that pair young offenders with older mentors to reduce recidivism.

The state also raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction, reformed its bail system and on Oct. 1, 2015, made possession of narcotics a Class A misdemeanor with a one-year sentence rather than an unclassified felony with seven.

In his brief, Lawlor said incarceration for drug possession has fallen by 79 percent since the latter change took effect.

Lawlor said 55 percent of the 1,038 people who fatally overdosed last year had been in state Department of Correction custody at some point — “an alarmingly high rate given the small percentage of state residents who have ever been admitted to prison.”

The DOC offers methadone — an opioid medication that reduces the symptoms of withdrawal — to some inmates at its facilities in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, Somers and Niantic, the latter of which is home to the state’s only women’s prison.

“One troubling aspect in recent years is that the total number of male inmates has dropped significantly while the number of incarcerated women had held constant,” Lawlor wrote in the brief.

He said the women population saw a 10 percent drop in 2017 but has since leveled off.

In June, 936 women and 12,464 men were incarcerated in Connecticut.

Lawlor said the state’s women population didn’t drop as quickly as the men and has steadied in part because many early efforts focused on men, who make up about 93 percent of those incarcerated.

More recent efforts have focused on women, who Lawlor said are more likely to have mental health issues and children for whom they’re responsible and less likely to have committed a serious crime.

“It’s a different set of circumstances,” Lawlor said. “It requires a different approach.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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