The state Senate voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve send to the House legislation that would require the collection and publication of data showing how prosecutors make decisions about charges, diversionary programs, bail requests, plea deals and sentencing recommendations.
The measure, which is a governor’s bill negotiated with prosecutors, the ACLU of Connecticut and others, also would require the public defender’s office to run a demonstration program in which it would provide representation at parole revocation hearings.
It would require the Criminal Justice Commission, which oversees state prosecutors, to meet at the Legislative Office Building and offer the public a chance to testify any time it meets to appoint, reappoint, remove or discipline the chief state’s attorney, a deputy chief state’s attorney or a state’s attorney.
The Vera Institute of Justice is campaigning nationally for greater oversight and analysis of what the think-tank sees as the most powerful, if largely impenetrable, segment of the criminal-justice system — prosecutors whose ultimate decisions are public, but arise from a process that Vera says too often resembles “a black box.”
In states where prosecutors are elected, campaigns now turn on the willingness of district attorneys to use data to examine their own offices for evidence of racial disparities or to analyze the impact of their policies on rates of crime, incarceration and recidivism. State’s attorneys in Connecticut are appointed by a Criminal Justice Commission.