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As a concerned resident of Connecticut and a victim of the state’s criminal justice system, I am deeply troubled by the results of a data analysis I did for all criminal convictions from 1980 to 2022.

In 2021, I co-published a report with Paper Prisons about people in Connecticut with convictions. I also testified for the Clean Slate bill, passed in May 2021, which was supposed to erase the records of misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions after seven or ten years without any conviction. The law was supposed to take effect in January 2023, but the state is behind schedule.

Recently, I decided to revisit the data, and I obtained all convictions as of December 31, 2022. The statistics are shocking and undeniable.

Black individuals are more than twice as likely to be convicted of a crime than their white counterparts and more than three times as likely to be convicted of a felony or probation violation. Black individuals are also almost nine times more likely to be incarcerated than white individuals.

While the state’s conviction data does not break down by ethnicity, Hispanics are also four times more likely to be incarcerated when compared to white individuals.

Source: The Connecticut Second Chance Pardon Gap from Paper Prisons Report.

Three cities – Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven – where the majority of residents are either Black or Hispanic, are responsible for 34% of all convictions, 40% of all felony convictions, and 36% of probation violations, despite comprising only 11% of the state’s population. This statistic alone indicates the systemic bias in our criminal justice system. This bias leads to severe injustice, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and inequality in our society for centuries. This unfair discrimination creates a vicious cycle of inequality and a lack of opportunity for the Black community.

As the old commercial used to say, “I’m not only the president, but I’m also a client.” I am not only a data analyst, but also a Black man who has been a victim of systemic bias within the Connecticut criminal justice system.

More than a decade ago, I was arrested for a crime I did not commit. After the prosecutor kept my case in court for almost two years, and after running out of funds to defend myself, I pled guilty under the Alford Doctrine to a misdemeanor. What made the matter even worse is that I was given an illegal sentence of five years of probation for a misdemeanor, which is against state law.

I was ordered to report every month for five years. During the five years I was serving the illegal probation, I was also court-ordered not to inquire about my case. I believe this was part of their coverup for the unlawful arrest and sentence. I lost my house and was separated from my family while having to report every month. After finishing serving the illegal sentence without ever missing a day, the state decided to arrest me for a probation violation, claiming that I still had to pay $912. The data shows that I am the only person who has ever received such an unjust sentence for a misdemeanor.

I faced employment discrimination because of that one conviction, and since the state still keeps it on my record, I still face discrimination after more than a decade.

Furthermore, to punish me further, they set my bail at $50,000. Fortunately, a new judge could not believe what was happening to me and freed me without bail and declared the original sentence illegal, but the damage was already done, and no justice was served. The fact that such a sentence could be given underscores the urgent need for change. We must act to ensure the system is fair and just for all.

This personal experience highlights the need for significant reform in the criminal justice system in our State. The State of Connecticut needs to enforce the Clean Slate Bill that was passed almost two years ago, so people like me don’t have to keep facing discrimination based on the injustice that happened more than a decade ago.

The latest data analysis and my personal experience demonstrate that the state needs to act on the Clean Slate Bill. We must act now to prevent the continuation of the cycle of inequality that has long existed within our society. We must also address the systemic bias that plagues the system and ensure it is fair and just for all.

As a concerned resident of Connecticut and a victim of the state’s criminal justice system, I urge the state to take immediate action to enforce the Clean Slate Bill and to address the systemic bias that plagues the system.

We must work together to build a criminal justice system that is fair and equitable for all.

Here is the data used to inform this commentary.

Adam Osmond is an Accountant and Data Analyst in West Hartford.