By Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill into law Thursday that attempts to give nonviolent criminals more opportunities to reintegrate into the community, and he promised to offer additional changes in the next legislative session.

The Democrat held a bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol for his so-called Second Chance Society legislation. He was surrounded by a crowd of supporters of the legislation, including the Republican leader of the state Senate, Len Fasano. Among other things, the new law reclassifies drug possession as a misdemeanor and provides help with housing and employment to inmates leaving prison.

Afterward, Malloy said he’s already compiling a “series of next steps for the next legislative session,” which begins in February. Malloy said he’s working with academics and people involved in the criminal justice and correctional systems on some new proposals, but he didn’t provide any details.

“I think that this is an important first step, but I also believe there are additional steps,” he said.

Malloy said he recently visited a prison in Berlin, Germany, where more than 25 percent of the staff focuses on helping inmates turn around their lives. He said they make sure inmates receive needed psychological treatment and job training. Malloy said inmates trained as cooks are successfully placed in jobs after they leave prison.

“As people are leaving jail, they are walking into a job,” he said.

In contrast, Malloy said few people living in Connecticut halfway houses after a prison term are gainfully employed.

“We’ve got to rebalance our approach,” he added.

Patrick Gallahue, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said his organization hopes additional changes will be made.

He said the first round of Malloy’s Second Chance Society highlighted how someone “can recover from an addiction, but not a conviction.” He said Connecticut can learn from other states, where “they’re trying out different ways to reduce people’s contact with the criminal justice system if they can go into treatment instead.”

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