Perspectives on Leadership for CJ Reform from CT Gov. Dannel Malloy
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy headlined a Kennedy School forum this week to press his case for serving young adults differently in the US criminal justice system. Focusing strategically on justice-involved young adults to reduce recidivism was the topic of a recent MassINC policy brief, as well as a report issued last fall by the Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.
Governor Malloy shared lessons-learned during his early professional experience as a prosecutor in New York City. Foremost among them was an understanding that the corrections system would quickly change if it impacted all communities the way it affected minority neighborhoods. He also explained how he was moved by a recent visit to a German region similar in size to his state, where crime rates are lower despite a prison population that is just one-fourth Connecticut’s.
Governor Malloy believes Democratic leaders in Northeastern states have been slow to come to terms with the problem. In Connecticut, it has been possible to successfully advocate for change because they weren’t succeeding in reducing recidivism. Leaders have been “begrudgingly” willing to try a less heavy-handed approach. He also believes fiscal realities necessitate change. With slow revenue growth long-term, states simply can’t afford the high cost and lost productivity that current criminal justice policies and practices produce.The governor has been very hands on, make five prison visits in the past 12 months. He also believes it is incumbent on leaders to communicate effectively. With criminal justice, there are inherent risks and leaders cannot shy away from explaining the difficult choices they make to keep the public safe.