New Britain

Deadly Hit-and-Run Renews Call for Juvenile Justice Changes

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After a teen suspect was accused in a deadly hit and run in New Britain, Police Chief Christopher Chute says the driver was a repeat offender and the latest example of an overall broken juvenile justice system in the state.

The chief says the suspect in the case has been arrested 13 times in the past several years.

“When there is no consequences it just emboldens them. They literally laugh at us. They know nothing is going to be done and they are out there again and we are just re-arresting them,” said Chute.

Now state House Republicans are calling for immediate action on what they believe is a crisis.

They think a special legislative session is needed to put together solutions.

“It's not something that we could wait on, and we don't want another tragic death to occur before action is actually taken,” said Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R – Naugatuck.

Previously introduced ideas by Republicans include: striking the limit of six hours that a juvenile can be held in detention without an order from the court, allowing police to pursue stolen cars in certain circumstances and having the Department of Children and Families investigate a repeat offender’s family situation in some cases.

Though when it comes to the parents, some aren’t necessarily looking to lay blame.

“We have to look at the big picture. We need to know what is going on in this child's life, whether home life or a different environment that's leading to these types of reckless actions,” said Rebimbas.

 “We focus on addressing the root issue in order to have long term success for young people and for all people,” said Christina Quaranta, Connecticut Justice Alliance executive director. 

The Connecticut Justice Alliance works on ending the criminalization of youth in the state.

“We really say that young people, families and communities really need to be invested in, and that punishment just isn't the answer and handcuffs are not going to solve or prevent somebody from committing a crime if they're going to do that anyway. They need to have their needs met,” said Quaranta.

House Speaker Matt Ritter and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas released a joint statement in response to the call by Republicans for a special legislative session:

“As we saw during this year's legislative session, we have an opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner to address our state's most pressing issues. We are always willing to meet and talk about informed and viable solutions to address an issue that is incredibly complex and cuts across social, economic and criminal justice policies. It will take time and hard work from every corner of the juvenile justice system, state and local government, and law enforcement to find meaningful solutions.”

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