Ex-Offenders Urge Gov. Malloy to Make a “Second Chance Society” Possible

As seen on WNPR

By Aundréa Murray

If you follow Hartford politics, you may remember Kennard Ray’s story.

Less than a day after being hired as Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s new deputy chief in 2013, Ray resigned from the position. He had a criminal record that Segarra said was “not initially disclosed,” but came to light after The Hartford Courant asked questions about Ray’s past.

Ray has a criminal history, including drug convictions in 1997 and 1998, and criminal gun possession in 2004, according to the Courant.

Since then, Ray said recently on WNPR’s Where We Live, re-entering the community has been a challenge.

“When someone is incarcerated, it’s not just that person; it’s the entire family,” he said. For some ex-offenders, Ray believes there may never be “an end to paying the price.”

“The last time I was on this show, my criminal background was not a question,” Ray said. “Now, I have to call it to question, and I have to answer that question all of the time.”

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Gov. Dannel Malloy during a visit to WNPR. CREDIT: Chion Wolf, WNPR

Governor Dannel Malloy is planning to embark on a change in Connecticut’s penal system with his “second chance society” proposal, which was well-received at the state Capitol during a hearing last week.

The plan is designed to integrate non-violent offenders back into communities through parole and drug reforms, job training, housing, and mental health services.

Drug possession charges would be classified as misdemeanors, and mandatory minimum sentences would come to an end.

Malloy has argued that making ex-offenders ineligible for employment, student loans, or housing is counterproductive if we expect them to re-enter society.

During a hearing, State Senator John Kissel, the leading Republican senator on the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, said the state is being “smart on crime” by focusing more attention on violent criminals, while sending fewer non-violent offenders to prison.

Recovering heroin addict Cindy talked on Where We Live about her transition from behind bars to re-entering society. “If I could’ve gotten adequate drug treatment, I probably would not have gone to prison to get clean and sober,” she said. She was charged with “violent” third-degree robbery after handing a note to a bank teller, but without a weapon or violent intent.

During last week’s legislative hearing, some lawmakers expressed concern that the bill might not provide for adequate treatment for non-violent drug offenders, and debated whether drug-addicted offenders are truly non-violent.

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