Justice bills aimed at reducing racial inequality in Conn.

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers are looking to reduce racial inequalities in the state’s criminal justice system and curb gun violence through several bills that have been approved by legislative committees this year.

The proposals include erasing many criminal convictions that disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic residents compared with whites; attempting to make jury pools more diverse; and expanding the state’s “red flag” law on seizing guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others.

Here is a look at some of this legislative session’s key criminal justice bills, which await final approval by the General Assembly:

ERASING CONVICTIONS

Supporters of this year’s “Clean Slate” legislation say it could be one of the session’s most impactful bills, potentially helping thousands of people who face difficulties finding work and housing because of criminal convictions.

The bill calls for automatically erasing misdemeanor convictions seven years after guilty findings and certain lower-level felony convictions 10 to 12 years after guilty findings, excluding family violence crimes and sexual assault offenses. High-level felonies, including murder, would also be excluded.

The legislation would ban discrimination based on a criminal record that has been erased, including in job applications, renting or selling homes, credit transactions and auto and life insurance.

A state report last year on 2019 records showed Black people, who make up 11% of the state’s population, were prosecuted in 34% of all resolved felonies. Hispanics, who make up 17% of Connecticut residents, were charged with 27% of the felonies prosecuted to completion.

“Mass incarceration has had real, ongoing consequences in Connecticut, disproportionately hurting Black and brown communities in our state, and burdening hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents with a criminal record,” said the Rev. Marilyn Kendrix, of North Haven, in testimony submitted to the Judiciary Committee. “Records present barriers to employment, housing, occupational licensing, and higher education.”

The committee approved the bill on a 23-14 vote.

As part of push by state officials this year to legalize recreational marijuana, a bill passed by committee would allow people with marijuana convictions to apply for erasure or receive automatic erasure of their convictions in some cases.

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