My suggestions for Connecticut lawmakers and policymakers:
Prison reform: Get rid of mandatory minimums and let the judges (not prosecutors) determine sentencing. Reduce or eliminate imprisonment for most nonviolent crimes (provide treatment and support services for addicted folks, not prison). Begin real ‘corrections’ programs in prison, preparing for ultimate discharge (almost all will be discharged and to keep the public safe, we need to be sure inmates have the best chance at success — 40 percent of those in prison are there for technical violations of parole). Support local police to provide true community policing and direct interaction with those known to be trouble-makers through cooperation among police, parole officers, prosecutors and judges.
Education: Seek the money (education tax?) to provide universal preschool and kindergarten. Social workers and VNA should visit the homes of families at risk and help with parenting skills, reading and the importance of education, good diet, etc. to increase the possibility of the children being able, by 3rd grade, to read at a 3rd grade level.
Health: Work with the federal government to reduce the cost of our system of health care (there is a variation in costs across country), moving away from fee-for-service toward holistic systems and disease reforms.
Transportation: Keeping in mind that we subsidize auto and highway traffic, encourage and subsidize support for biking, walking, transit-oriented development and rapid transit bus and train travel.
Taxes: Appoint a task force to seriously investigate alternatives to property taxation as a support for government programs.
Illegal drugs: Support educational programs to disseminate the truth about the effects of illegal drugs and move toward total legalization of marijuana, working with Congress regarding reclassifying marijuana to a Class III drug, legalizing hemp agriculture, looking at innovative ways to treat heroin addiction based on successful harm reduction (rather than imprisonment) programs elsewhere in the world, expand drug treatment in prisons including the use of methadone and other medical approaches.
Voting: Change voting day to Saturday to increase participation and the education of children in the value of voting.
Municipal waste: Increase recycling support and composting, eliminate shipping waste out of state to landfills, move toward zero waste and the need for trash to energy plants.
Hartford resident Robert Painter is former director and chairman of the Surgery Department at St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center, before which he was a surgeon for 23 years at Day Kimball Hospital. He served on the Hartford City Council for seven years and is now a part-time research assistant in drug policy at Central Connecticut State University.