The Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System was created by the Connecticut General Assembly on October 1, 2000 through Public Act 00-154. The Commission is a permanent body chaired by the Chief Court Administrator or his/her designee. Judge Lubbie Harper, Jr. is the current chairperson for the Commission, whose members began meeting September 4, 2000 and have met bi-monthly thereafter. The Commission's work is directed through a Steering Committee composed of Commission members which meets regularly to set the agenda for the full Commission meetings.
The Commission's responsibilities are set forth in state law and include developing and recommending policies that will reduce both the number of African-Americans and Latinos in our juvenile and criminal justice systems and the number of minorities who are victimized by crime. This far-reaching charge requires the Commission to examine every aspect of the criminal and juvenile justice systems. This includes court processes, from arrest to disposition, as well as an examination of what we call "the face of the system" - the way the system presents itself.
One of the Commission's most important responsibilities is to develop effective methods to reduce the likelihood that young people will engage in illegal behavior. The Commission is focusing its efforts on the children and youth of Connecticut because it believes that reaching people while they are young will help keep them out of the criminal justice system throughout their lives. As part of this effort the Commission initiated and generously funded the IMRP’s evaluation of Waterbury’s Police Activity League.
Further information is available at the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity's website.
Hiring a Consultant for the Commission
The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Purchasing Services Office, released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on August 28, 2007. The duties of the Consultant, as outlined within the RFP, were to provide technical and administrative assistance to the Commission. Several proposals were submitted by individuals as well as agencies. Proposals were reviewed by a team of Commission members who, after lengthy discussion and consideration, chose the Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to act as Consultant to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System.
On Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008, the Connecticut Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System held an inaugural conference to discuss the current state of racial and ethnic disparity in the criminal justice system. The conference was held at the Central Connecticut State University campus in New Britain and attendees included Connecticut law enforcement, various members of the state's judicial system, policymakers, not-for-profit service providers, advocates, education personnel, citizens and state agency heads. The purpose of the conference was to inform decision-makers about current initiatives in the criminal and juvenile justice area and the importance of preventing youth from entering the system. To promote dialogue among those who work in the system and those whose lives they impact, solution-focused breakout sessions were held throughout the day addressing a variety of topics.
Police Activities League (PAL)
The Institute for Municipal & Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) is a contracted consultant to the Commission. At the request of Judge Harper, researchers and staff from the IMRP met with the chiefs of police in Connecticut’s larger cities to learn about their respective departments’ youth programs and to offer their and the Commission’s services to assist them in their efforts to deter youth from the criminal justice system. When the CCSU team, led by Andrew Clark, Aileen Keays and Dr. Ronald Fernandez, met with Chief Neil O’Leary of the Waterbury Police Department, Chief O’Leary stated his desire to carry out an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of Waterbury’s PAL with the goal of identifying potential improvements. The IMRP and the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System agreed this was a valuable opportunity to assist a local police chief who has dedicated his department’s resources to creating and building a unique program to benefit the youth and the community-at-large in his district.