Over the last decade, Connecticut has made significant strides in criminal justice reform, making the state a national leader in the area. Still, pre-trial detainment for minor offenses remains significant. In the second quarter of 2021, state jails admitted a monthly average of nearly 800 pre-trial individuals, most of whom were charged with nonviolent offenses. The largest proportion of detainees were charged with parole violations, followed by violations of a protective order. Nationally, the story is the same, with approximately 65 percent of detainees not having been convicted of a crime, and 80 percent of arrests made for low-level offenses.

Pre-trial detainment carries significant costs, both for the taxpayer and the detainee. The annual cost of housing an individual in a Connecticut Department of Corrections facility is approximately $50,200, requiring a budget of nearly $649 million as of December 2019. But the social costs for detainees are even higher. When arrested and detained in jail, accused offenders may lose their jobs, which causes cascading challenges, such as jeopardized housing due to potential difficulties paying rent or mortgages, as well as interpersonal difficulties around obtaining food or other essentials. These additional challenges contribute to higher recidivism rates. One study found that an individual housed in jail for two to three days has a 17 percent likelihood to reoffend. This only increases to a 51 percent likelihood if housed in jail for eight to 14 days. These costs are especially high for individuals charged with low-level, non-violent offenses who do not pose a significant risk to public safety.

Image credit: Andy Dean