Connecticut legislators have begun the process of reforming the state’s criminal laws after the slaying this summer of a mother and her two daughters in their home, reports the Hartford Courant. The judiciary committee heard testimony on 15 proposals in advance of to a special legislative session in January to consider a long-term response to what has come to be known as the Cheshire tragedy. Four months after the horrific killings of three members of the Petit family, allegedly by two parolees, lawmakers discussed a toughened version of the “three strikes” law that would place criminals in prison for life if convicted of three violent felonies. Home invasions would not only be reclassified as violent felonies, but a conviction would count as one of the strikes under the “three strikes” law.
While some lawmakers called for a get-tough-on-crime approach, others cautioned it could eliminate judges’ discretion or undermine rehabilitation programs that advocates say are necessary because virtually all prisoners will eventually be released back into society. The lone survivor of the attack – Dr. William A. Petit Jr. — called for setting aside partisan differences as they rewrite the state’s criminal laws. “Our system failed me and my family,” he said. “You have the responsibility to correct those failures.” Based on problems with the parole board related to the Cheshire case, both Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Democratic lawmakers want to create a full-time parole board whose members would earn more than $90,000 per year, plus fringe benefits worth another $55,000 per year.