Since fiscal year 2008, Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy (IMRP) has been receiving annual funding from the Connecticut General Assembly to administer competitive grants for providing positive interventions for at-risk youth whose parent(s) and/or family members have been incarcerated. The goal is to use the various data and knowledge gained to inform intervention and public policy development.
Connecticut Policy and Children of Incarcerated Parents
Around the year 2000, CT policymakers began reexamining the state's criminal justice strategy. Two convergent factors - the exponential rise of CT's incarcerated population (and associated costs) and severe budget deficits – were the main factors influencing this reexamination. With the assistance of the Counsel of State Governments and the Connecticut General Assembly’s Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee staff, in 2003 the legislature proposed a series of policy changes aimed at creating greater effectiveness and efficiency in the criminal justice system. The resulting policy initiative, entitled “justice reinvestment”, was passed and implemented with the stated overall goals of generating annual savings for the state by limiting the growth of the state prison populations, while maintaining public safety and improving conditions in the handful of communities to which the majority of people released from prison return.
As a result of this initiative, CT has been recognized around the country for being at the forefront of state efforts to reduce prison populations and effectively manage prisoner re-entry. Continuing in the theme of “justice reinvestment”, the reexamination of criminal justice policies has more recently expanded to the “front-end” of the system, a.k.a. the juvenile population.
Through the extensive gathering and assessment of information on this population, many factors emerged that, if properly addressed, would allow for more effective juvenile justice policy in CT. One of these factors appears to be the treatment of youth of incarcerated parents. A dominant theory is that future incarceration is significantly more likely for those that have experienced parental incarceration. Therefore, it would follow that adequately addressing the needs of these youth is paramount to reversing this trend. In 2007, the legislature allocated resources to the IMRP to determine an outcome based approach to the state policy on children of incarcerated parents.