Legislators Campaign For “Clean Slate” Justice Reform

State Senator Marilyn Moore on Sunday will be among the state legislators kicking off a campaign called “clean slate” a law proposal to expunge criminal records for non-violent offenders after a period of years. The event, hosted by Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, will take place Sunday, 3 pm in Mount Aery Baptist Church, 73 Frank Street.

News release from CONECT:

“Clean Slate” legislation would create a system of automatic expungement of criminal records for people who have served their time and stayed crime-free for a significant period of time upon release (3 years for misdemeanors and 5 years for non-violent felonies).

Pennsylvania passed similar legislation in 2017-18 with broad bipartisan support, and a number of other states are now considering similar action. Both liberals and conservatives across the nation–including the Koch Brothers, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Center for American Progress–are encouraging states to adopt Clean Slate legislation.

Clean Slate removes the stigma of a criminal record and restores the dignity and full citizenship of those with a criminal record–an important step in shifting our highly punitive, racist system of mass incarceration towards rehabilitation, restoration, and redemption. Additionally, Clean Slate legislation benefits the economy with returning citizens earning new jobs, better wages, and opening small businesses. Returning citizens with expunged records would play a critical role in filling some of the 25,000 jobs currently vacant in CT.

What: More than 100 CONECT leaders will gather with key CT Legislators on Sunday to launch a legislative campaign to pass “Clean Slate” legislation this session.

Who: Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk); incoming chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven); Sen. Marilyn Moore (D-Bridgeport), Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven), Rep. Andre Baker (D-Bridgeport) are confirmed to attend. Over 100 CONECT lay leaders and clergy leaders from across Fairfield and New Haven counties, as well as other local and state allies, will also attend. During his campaign, Gov.-elect Ned Lamont pledged to support and sign Clean Slate legislation.

CONECT is a broad-based community organization made up of more than 27 churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and a Sikh gurdwara from New Haven and Fairfield Counties–representing more than 20,000 people from different races, ethnic groups, faith backgrounds, and both cities and suburbs–that have joined together to take action on community issues for the common good. CONECT is affiliated with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (metro-IAF.org).

Why: CONECT believes in the collective power of individuals and groups working together to address their community’s biggest challenges. This legislation would further CT’s leadership in criminal justice reform and benefit families and communities both in CONECT congregations and across the state.



    1. Ron,
      Did you not see where President Shaw and Dr. Gaston at SUMC said on the news that people should join CONECT the day of the press conference or did you miss that. Dr. Gaston, Dr. Bennett, Rev. Shaw and others are always at these events, so why are you trying to throw shade? I am confused Ron. But I am on to you. You like to throw low blows and then run away.

  1. This law has nothing to with the legal process for Joe Ganim to get his law license. Maybe if Joe Ganim just say that I was wrong in committing the crimes that I was charged with and that I’m truly sorry for my action. I hurt my family, friends, the taxpayers of Bridgeport who put their trust in me. Again, I apologize for my action. But Joe Ganim is not man enough to admit what he did because he will never say what he did.

  2. Ron & Don,

    Where are the two of you today? You all have been relatively silent. I think I will go to the event at Mt. Avery tomorrow. Will I see at least one of you there?

  3. Don,

    I know Matt I will be sure to tell him you said hello. You are all about change. I will tell him that you are not in the business of tearing down but about building up. Don, I think you are a good man, but you need to rub off on your friend, Ron. Ron stuck a knife in another black man’s back. That, my friend, is not okay at all. Take it from me, a black woman. I don’t like what he did to Dr. Gaston. I forgive him but it was wrong how he let the Judge come for him and he didn’t find anything wrong with it because it was all about “him.” I will let his concious beat him. I hope to see him tomorrow. I will be there! Live and in action! Good night Don!!

  4. Stephanie Thompson, as this is the first Sunday in the in 2019 we all must learn how to be honest to ourselves first. You have decided to join in on the dialogue on OIB without knowing who the players are. The issue that started was about Bridgeport and how Mayor Ganim and Mario Testa use people to empower their selves in using the clergy. That was Judge Lopez main point that she was making. I made it clear in the beginning my concern was the mayor using Rev. Gaston for his own policital goals and I asked the question was Rev. Gaston being used as a Trojan Horse. I didn’t know anything about Rev. Gaston so I asked Rev. Gaston to fill in the blanks. I asked because was I concern that Rev. Gaston might be used because he had only been here in Bridgeport for 3 years. I was concern about Rev. Gaston’s back and I needed some answers and Rev. Gaston reply back with those concerns. If you read what Donald Day said that he was concern about Rev. Gaston reply back to me to call his secretary and that was a concern to Judge Lopez. Stephanie Thompson you attack Don and myself without knowing ANYTHING about us. I have no problem with Rev. Gaston and he has no problem with me. Stephanie Thompson if you notice that no one was making any comments in support of anything you were saying, nobody but Robert and you notice no ever agrees with him. I suggest that you read over again what was said.

    1. Stephanie Thompson, here is exactly what Judge Lopez wrote. There was never any attack on Rev. Gaston and if there were attacks please state exactly what were and same thing if I attack Rev. Gaston, show me.

      Unfortunately here in Bridgeport, our clergy of all races and creeds have too often preached the Gospel of Partisan Political Proselytizing, rather than the Good News. Instead of promoting their Parishioners (Rev. Anthony Bennett being a notable exception), the Clergy take the places of honor for themselves, including places on the Ballot.

      Unfortunately here in Bridgeport, our clergy of all races and creeds have too often preached the Gospel of Partisan Political Proselytizing, rather than the Good News. Instead of promoting their Parishioners (Rev. Anthony Bennett being a notable exception), the Clergy take the places of honor for themselves, including places on the Ballot.

  5. Ron since you invoked me in your comment, and it is the first Sunday in 2019. Lets see how honest we can be. Ron are you and Day racist, or at least extremely bias? I second thought don’t answer that question and lets keep in the spirit of Sunday. However do you really believe Judge Lopez MAIN POINT to piggy back on your question to Mr. Gatson was about Ganim and Mario using people and the clergy.to empower themselves? Talk about being used. Unless Stephanie is right you asked Judge Lopez to pen her hit piece on the Reverend and the role of the black church in America. Did you? You still didn’t answer her. How are we suppose to lean about you, the players, if you won’t answer her, if you answer it honestly.

    I’ll tell you what I learned about you and Day, while you always incorporate the Latino’s in your stats.
    You two didn’t congratulated him, or the other white dude on their appointments. While I expected a snub for the white dude, Christ’s snub tough me either Day’s comment on the black vote towards Puerto Ricans might have some standing, or you care for him as a person, or opposing player, enough to show support.

    PS. We don’t learn how to be honest, We learn how to be dishonest, Just like we don’t learn how to be racist. We learn how to be racist. I guess corruption can absolutely be applied as well, Or should we wait until time tell, but by then it might be to late. By the way, doesn’t any really know anybody considering before one can stabbed one in the back that person was following them who was trusted. Ron don’t hate the player hate the game. Key word here is game. So please lets learn not to take the snub and even the knives as part of the game that is Bridgeport politics. Remember when you change the rules you change the game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwFD8RNVkPc

  6. Robert, NOBODY on OIB knows who you are, NOBODY, there’s not one person on OIB who will say they know you and the same for Stephanie Thompson, nobody has said that they know her. People don’t have to like me but they know me and they will say so. If someone wants to shut down a topic on OIB just mention your name or reply something against your position and you will go off and then you are talking to yourself. NOBODY cares about you and your position.

  7. Everybody knows you Ron. You are Somewhat of a racist. The only thing different between a White racist against blacks and black racist against whites in America is Blacks somewhat have more of history of treatment from whites for their racism. Where the blacks racism come from toward Puerto Ricans that blacks will never vote for them , according to Day, I don’t know. Do you know Ron, or should we ask your brother Day why black will never vote blacks? I still like Day more than you. I may not know Stephanie, I agree with her that Day is more of a man than you.

  8. Is that someone black, or white. 🙂 As soon as I uplift my life, and career. I’ll be in more of position to up life others. Until them I try not to give the people working the welfare department a hard time by being an asshole when I’m collecting my food stamps. Did you see the news someone got killed in a hit and run.

  9. Robert, you should come to this event at Mt. Aery now, you won’t have to worry because nobody knows you plus there are a lot of white people here. I’m parked next to the Ch. 12 truck and I’m sitting on the far left side of the church when you come in the first seat in the second row where the drummer is, so come on down and just ask the usher and they will point me for you.

    1. Why would I have to worry if I was known or not? I when to a black church for two years when I lived in New London. Any Puerto Rican going to be there SJ. 🙂

  10. Robert, the only you do see whenever Donald Day and myself say anything your reply is black racist against whites in America, that’s because you have no answer to whatever we had said so you run black racist or some self effacing humor. In order to be a racist is to have the power to enforce the belief in superiority, I don’t have any power to enforce anything against anyone white like whites did in South Africa or what Germany did with the Holocaust or what whites did in America with slavery.

    Again Robert what have you ever done in serving your city and country? Donald Day serve this City as a firefighter and is a retire Captain, I am a Vietnam Era veteran as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force and I’m a retired Lieutenant for the Bridgeport, I have proudly serve my country and my City and Don and myself have put our life on the line every day that we were on duty. Robert, what have you done?

  11. Well to be fair Ron and Day you make it easy to see the racist tone in your comments. 🙂 You can just add the word white and it automatically become racist. Eample. Take the NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, nothing wrong with it, nothing wrong with helping other color people advance. Now change one word to NAAWP, National Association for the Advancement of White People. Hmmm Living n trailer, well I’m sure there’s room for advancement. Considering the bathroom debate in our governor’s election.

    Do not confuse or even combine white to superiority. Don’t the white Germany evade all of white Europe? And lets not over look the rest of Africa. Where blacks are rain down there own atrocities on other blacks in the name of superiority. Rwands comes to mind.

    As for me, what have I done for the city and my country. The same as most of all those voters who are being pander to by those who have done so much.

    Be well people, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOS3d_bkI7M

  12. Hi Ron,
    What a long day today, but very productive. I read your comments. All I will say is that it appears to me and so many others that you had Judge Lopez to attack Dr. Gaston. You simply misinterpreted his gesture to meet. Even after he explained himself, you still did not acknowledge the fact that Dr. Gaston’s response to you was not snobbish. I think because of his educational background and savvy language he uses, you took that as an insult. He never insulted you. You are the one who seemed to have had the issue and it appears that you colluded with Judge Lopez to pen a letter to attack Dr. Gaston in an attempt to put him in his “place.” Like, negro, who do you think you are, kind of thing? That is the part that was distasteful to me and so many others. Judge Lopez, regardless of how you look at it, attacked the black church and the black preacher. She may not ever admit it, but she did, and I still say she owe Dr. Gaston an apology.

    I was talking to dozens of kids and church leaders recently who all were up in arms. Many of them have met with me and others about a press conference calling for her to apologize to Dr. Gaston in particular, but Dr. Gaston said out of respect for him and his congregation, they would like to handle it. That is the only reason that I would not move forward on it. She really treated him like a dog. That was not fair. You all should not jump the gun next time.Get to know people first and what they are about. This was all a misunderstanding.Then Maria started trying to attack me and I stood up to her. Don, and I are good. Frank and I are good. Me and you are good, but I just want you to admit that you had Judge Lopez attack Dr. Gaston. You should tell her that a lot of people did not like it, and she should be ashamed of herself in doing what she did. Robert do make a lot of sense. You all seem to be bias on here. You like who you like and you dislike who you dislike and then you try to discredit them. Go and read what Robert writes. He does make good points.

    1. See, I make some good points. 🙂 The reverend is a good looking dude. 🙂

      While it was a hit piece, and it was intended to agitate and up set some blacks, such as yourself. The Judge was full aware of what she had penned. Where I think you might be wrong is Ron putting Judge Lopez up to pen what she had wrote. Ron and Lopez, in my opinion, have always been aligned along the way of Bpt politics. I believe Ron and the Judge sent a supporting letter for Bob who send a racist message at another council member. So it’s not always about race in Bpt politics, per se.

      Ron seen Reverend Eye Candy 🙂 as the opposition, someone who aligned himself with Joe and Mario, He was not looking at race or the black church when he questioned the Reverend about his appointment.

      Lopez is a much more astute players then Ron in Bridgeport politics. As to her true motive for injecting herself, well as the Reverend stated, only they who penned what they wrote can truly know their intent. We are just left to interpret it. There’s a saying when you don’t know love, and you listen to a love song you are listing to the music, but when you understand love and lost. You’re listing to the lyrics. So when reading what the Judge had penned it has different meaning to different people. The mind see what it choose to see. We are just left to interpret it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIwZVG5wMi8

      1. Robert, what have you done to help your city and county? Robert share with all of us some of the wonderful things you have done besides running your mouth with the need you post that no one agrees with, there’s not one person who supports you but keep on.

        1. It’s pretty presumptuous to speak for everyone. I believe I address your question already.

          “As for me, what have I done for the city and my country. The same as most of all those voters who are being pander to by those who have done so much.”

          P.S. Country singer do my some powerful love songs. This one powerful too.


  13. unfortunately here in Bridgeport, our clergy of all races and creeds have too often preached the Gospel of Partisan Political Proselytizing, rather than the Good News. Instead of promoting their Parishioners (Rev. Anthony Bennett being a notable exception), the Clergy take the places of honor for themselves, including places on the Ballot.
    Let me walk you through the issues that I have with him. First her statements assume that Dr. Gaston is self-serving and does not promote his parishioners. It is a least implied by her statement. She then uses Rev. Bennett as a notable exception. Which means that everybody else falls into the same category as Dr. Gaston. She then pits the young black preacher against the old black preacher ( See Willie Lynch Letter). this is promoting white supremacy as a system. She then makes a judgement by implying that the black preacher can only and should only be assigned to the church. She attacks the church as a whole, but she is really focused on black leaders, because those are the only one’s she named particularly. By naming Dr. Gaston and Dr. Bennett she makes it clear that she is referring to black clergy even though she says that she is focused on clergy of all races and creeds. That is a politcal spin and not bold preaching.If you notice, she only named one white person, and that was Wesley who is the founder of the United Methodist Church. What she was trying to do is say, your white founder did not adhere to this, so why are you, go back and be quiet. Stay in your lane. What she did not understand is that Dr. Gaston is a black preacher in a majority organization, with a minority-majority congregation. My cousin who knows him and who have been to his church shared with me that his church is one of the most ethnically diverse churches in the City. He has a lot of Lations at his church. Blacks, whites, and others. Anyways, all I am saying is if you look at it and break it down, you will see what I am saying. Either way you put it, it was a jab at Dr. Gaston and a jab at the black preacher. She then tries to attack his accomplishments by accusing him of flaunting his resume for others to see. Like, what the hell is he supposed to do?? I keep saying, she would not be where she is today if I were not for people in the black church and the black preacher fighting for equality. She should have no reason of attacking a black pastor who only came to talk about a 12 year old boy being shot in his community, and he wanted to help to do something about it. Instead of it being something positive, she made it something negative. Ron, if you had a problem with this black “brother” you should have been the one to address him, not her, she need to stay in here lane. I bet she would not support you in attacking another Puerto Rican. I bet she wouldn’t. The Puerto Rican cacus would have already put out a statement. We must not allow folks to beat our people down like animals in the streets. Tell her that our people are not dumb or stupid and we can interpret what is happening.

    1. Stephanie Thompson, by using that logic Judge Lopez is saying that every minister, white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu fit your description, every pastor but of course she didn’t say that, did she. You are going so far out your way that makes absolutely no sense. Where are the your supporting comments on OIB? Nobody agrees with you. Stephanie Thompson, you know so much about Rev. Gaston but nothing about Judge Lopez who has a lietime record in Bridgeport that’s longer than Rev. Gaston has been alive.

      Stephanie Thompson, here’s how much you have disrespected Rev. Gaston, he made it clear that he wanted you to stop doing what you are doing but no, not you because you didn’t care what Rev. Gaston said to you, total disrespect.

      Herron Gaston says:
      January 4, 2019 at 10:03 pm
      Ms. Thompson,
      Thank you for your comments. Again, could we please stop with the name calling. I am not interested in a press conference. I would, however, welcome a conversation with Judge Lopez if she is interested in speaking. Ms. Thompson, just as I extended an invitation to meet with you, I am interested in meeting with others, whether they agree or disagree with me. I am all about advancing the community. Stephanie, I am not trying to temper you or be disrespectful, I am simply saying that I am not interested in demeaning anyone. Thank you for your passion. Have a blessed evening

      Herron Gaston says:
      January 4, 2019 at 4:28 pm
      Ms. Thompson,
      I appreciate your contribution. However, I would ask that we don’t turn this into an argument. I would like a healthy exchange. Thank you for your cooperation.

  14. By the way Stephanie Thompson don’t forget to tell those 12 children how you disrespected twice what Rev. Gaston said to you and if notice Rev. Gaston say what he did to you to anybody else. You can continue to hate.

      1. Stephanie Thompson, why are you sharing your personal business between Rev. Gaston and yourself with me and everybody on OIB? Here you are stabbing Rev. Gaston, a black man who is a pastor in the back and making it known that your meeting has been postpone. Why?

  15. Just look how many times Robert Teixeira has text at the end of this topic, out of 17 text Robert made 14 comments and as always NOT one person has said that they agree with Robert on anything. Stephanie Thompson has gone silent.

  16. Ron Mackey,
    You are such a coward and you bend the truth. You avoid answering questions directly and you do not take responsibility for your actions. You are a hate monger and you, my friend, have a lot of insecurities. You are a conspiracy theorist but have been wrong on all of your conspiracies. I do not say you have not done good work in the community but you have been more of an agitator than anything. Then you have a nerve to talk about other people. Ron, I know people who know you closely and for decades they have known you. They tell me that you are a decent man, but that you are a shit starter, and then you hide your hand. That is what you did to the pastor. I expect nothing more of you. Ron, I am not angry with you just helping you to see your shortcomings. Don, is a much better person than you. Hopefully he rubs off on you. I have done a lot for my community. I have done a lot to touch the future. I am always tutoring kids for free. I am constantly doing for the elderly. I am constantly paying people’s rent. Among other things, I stand up for my people and I don’t let other people unfairly attack them. I am about building up and not tearing down, unlike you, Ron. Ron, you need help. I am sorry. You live to start shit.

  17. Stephanie Thompson, please show what I said and especially what I did to Rev. Gaston? I asked Rev. Gaston few questions and he reply back to me, Rev. Gaston has no problem with me I have no problem with Rev. Gaston. You keep missing the issue with Mayor Ganim and Mario Testa in fact you have no problem with these two men but you have a problem with black man asking questions about something he knows nothing about. Again, PLEASE show me what I did to Rev. Gaston that is so terrible to you but not to what I did to Rev. Gaston? You seem to want to be what I did to Rev. Gaston spokesperson but he has asked you, ” Stephanie, I am not trying to temper you or be disrespectful, I am simply saying that I am not interested in demeaning anyone. Thank you for your passion. Have a blessed evening”

  18. Stephanie, kindly quit interjecting me into your posts to Ron about manhood. Ron is and will always be one of the finest Men that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and learning from. Because of Ron, I am.

    Say what you wish about Ron, but the person that you think he is, is far from the Black man that I know he is. I strive to be half the man that Ron is and everyone that knows me and knows Ron, knows I walk in his shadow, proudly and without remorse.

  19. First let me just say Ignoring someone does not work. I tried it., and you’re still here. LOSER 🙂

    Second, Ron. there are 53 posts and with 6 posters. 1 for a straight up racist. 2 from your sidekick, and 4 from a loser who won’t go away. No matter what you try. The silent treatment didn’t work.

    That leaves 46 posts from me, you and Stephanie. I will not go Maria on you and give you the breakdown. 🙂 Since there is no like button lets not presume. But lets see who agrees with me. Who here thinks Tom White is a racist? Ron, Day? 🙂

    P.S. I don’t care who agrees with me. TBK is a loser in my book. How much of loser depends on him and his sincere penitence and ability remain silent.

    Speaking of silence. nice version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-g7t2l4

    1. Robert how many post from you out of 53? Of course you care if no one likes you, can you blame them when are the joker, just entertainment for yourself because nobody cares about you or anything you write.

  20. Well it’s up to 56 now. 🙂
    I think you have misinterpreted what I wrote. But then again it was pretty clear. However you are mistaking. I do care if people like me. I don’t care if they don’t like because of what I write. I will say this in your response to no one care anything I write. You are the one who doesn’t care the most. I know this because you keep replying to my posts. Or you like me 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccbC_jMWt68 — ish


  21. Robert, I never respond to you but on this topic I decided to reply so that you could do what you do best, to look like the fool you are so that readers really see what an ass you are and you truly proved my point.

  22. Don,
    I thought you were a leader, you are just a follower. This is disappointing but not a surprise. Blaze your own trail, Ron is bad business. I am sorry you got caught in that web. Ron, is a hater.

  23. Ron,
    I hope that we can find a way to work together. I teach a community advocacy class at a local college nearby. Maybe you should take advantage of such course. I think you can learn a lot from the younger students. They are very open minded and can teach you about a thing or two. You are never to old to learn Ron. I hope to see you soon at another Connect event. I believe I spotted you sitting towards the front yesterday. I tried to come over to speak, but you were too busy trying to look important 🙂

    1. Stephanie Thompson, there you go again, you are try to tell me what I need to but you know about me. Community advocacy, Stephanie Thompson for 16 straight years from 1992 to 1998 Don was the President of the Firebird Society and then the next 10 years I was the President, we were like co-Presidents. During that 16 years our organization under our leadership was involved with ABCD Toys for Tots program where we made financial donations every year plus we there at Longfellow School to help give out the toys. We made donations every year to the City with Disability Thanksgiving food baskets and we made the delivery, we gave away free smoke detectors and we installed them for free, ABCD provide us with the names and addresses, the organization gave away three scholarships every year that was named the Joe Kirkland Scholarship, we did read a loud and career day at schools, we did recruitment to get black candidates to become firefighters then we held training classes to help them to pass the exam, we had our annual Firebird Cookout which is free to the public, we are Lifetime members of the NAACP, let me stop there because there because there are just so many more things that we were involved with the community, I’m just talking about the time frame that we were the President. Oh one more thing, we OWN our own office building on Barnum Ave which we bought for one dollar where we hold our meetings and study group. Now Stephanie Thompson, tell me what has you done?

  24. But on this topic. This is actually a good thing. They would need to be careful just to make sure they look at the fine details of this measure in how it can affect people. For example, there is a difference between expunging someone’s record who uses a toy gun in a robbery v. a person who uses a real gun etc. Details will be important in terms of what should qualify. What do you think Don, Frank, Ron, & Robert? Makes sense?

  25. Stephanie this will be the last thing that I ever address with you because I don’t particularly like you. You say you thought I was a leader, but the fact is that you don’t know me so you have no idea what I am. You say that I’m just a follower, but the fact is you don’t know me so you have no idea what I am. I don’t give a damn what you think of me because you don’t know me and what you eat doesn’t make me shit.

    I have serious doubt about who and what you are because no one that I know from the Black community had ever heard of you. I talked to Ernie Newton, don’t know her. I’ve talk to several Black ministers including my minister Rev. Dr. Anthony L. Bennett, no one knows you or has even heard of you. What church do you worship in? I’ve come to the conclusion that you are just a internet troll looking for a little notoriety, celebrity or prominence on OIB. Bye Phylicia.

  26. Stephanie Thompson, here is the tragic story of the death of a young black mother and three small children back in Nov. 2009. Within one week after this tragedy Judge Lopez had put together a “shadow committee” to make sure that a honest and true investigation was done and that the fact were made known to the family, the residents and the taxpayers of Bridgeport. There were no black ministers, black politician or black leader involved with finding the truth, no it was this Hispanic woman fighting for what was right. The article below was written one year after young black mother and three small children.

    “The benefits of blaming the victim in Bridgeport fire”
    Published 11:42 pm EST, Saturday, March 13, 2010

    It’s Tiana Black’s fault. And hers alone that she and her three young children died in a fire last November that tore through their apartment at the P.T. Barnum public housing complex.

    Black had an elevated blood-alcohol level that “likely” factored into her inability to escape, the state Department of Public Safety states in its much-awaited probe of the late-night blaze that claimed the lives of the 22-year-old mother, her twin 4-year old daughters and 5-year-old son. Black had a bottle of Bacardi rum sitting on her dining room floor, alcohol-spiked juice in the kitchen, the investigators observe, and her

    How impaired Black might have been is unknown because city officials redacted that medical information. But it doesn’t matter whether Black had kicked back one rum or enough to be three times the legal drinking limit for driving. She wasn’t behind the wheel of a car. She was at home. There is nothing illegal about an adult over the age of 21 drinking at home. They write that her alcohol consumption “would likely have impaired her ability to respond appropriately to the initial alarm and to the fire itself.”

    That’s quite the convenient conclusion. Blame the victim. She can’t rise from the grave and defend herself. It makes everyone’s job so much easier: from the Bridgeport Housing Authority to the City of Bridgeport. Community activists and tenants have bashed P.T. Barnum as being a fire trap, having only a single exit door, lacking fire escapes, sprinklers and sensitive enough photo-electric smoke detectors like the ones required in all Massachusetts and Vermont homes.

    Let’s say the fire is Black’s fault. If that’s the case, does anyone have to do anything to make fire safety improvements at P.T. Barnum or any other public housing complex? Blaming Black keeps us from giving meaningful thought to the design flaws in this public housing complex. Consider whether it’s acceptable to build a three-story college dorm outfitted like this place. Fire sprinklers weren’t required when P.T. Barnum was built.

    Keep in mind that retrofitting a 320-unit housing complex with sprinklers costs millions. Portable emergency fire ladders, the kind you can toss out a window and climb two or three stories to safety, aren’t expensive, but they’re not cheap either. But isn’t this an investment worth making? Lives hang in the balance. All of the smoke detectors in Black’s apartment were working that fateful night. Yet none of her neighbors picked up a phone to summon the fire department even after hearing Black’s smoke alarms for at least 11 minutes. That’s because they’ve long become blase about how often these devices trip off when there is no fire.

    Two weeks after the fire, firefighters discovered that 150 smoke detectors were either intentionally disabled or didn’t work, Bridgeport Authority Executive Director Nicholas Calace says, and when they returned later in December another 44 were disabled.

    So we can understand why the housing authority might scoff at the idea of installing photoelectric smoke detectors, the kind Boston’s Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Fleming, pushed Massachusetts to require. In the case of a smoldering fire, a photoelectric smoke detector is capable of detecting a fire up to half an hour sooner than an ionic smoke detector, the kind the housing authority and most homeowners use.

    Still, we can understand why a public housing complex might resist installing something more expensive if tenants are disabling what’s already there.

    Plenty of folks have been waiting for the state Department of Public Safety’s report on the blaze, anticipating that it might be a catalyst for improvements to the 60-year-old P.T. Barnum apartments. In the aftermath of the blaze, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and fire officials visited the complex, spoke to tenants about the need to come up with a practical plan for how to get out of their apartments in the event of fire. And housing authority brass say they are putting together a video that tenants will be required to view annually to better learn how to protect themselves.
    As for structural improvements, Calace says, the Housing Authority is “still weighing its options. We talk about doing a lot of different things,” he says, “but it all boils down to educating our tenants. That needs to be done first.”
    Carmen Lopez, a retired Superior Court judge, is a member of the Shadow Task Force, a residents’ group formed to pressure city officials to make safety upgrades.

    “There’ve been no meaningful steps taken to make the place any safer. Nobody’s talking about how the single doors people have get stuck and you can’t get out,” she said. “When I look at this report, I definitely see a `blame-the-victim’ theme. There’s no mention in it of any of the design flaws for getting to safety if you can’t get out the front and only door. Mostly, what I see in this report is malign the dead.”

    Connecticut Post columnist MariAn Gail Brown can be reached at 203-330-6288 or mgbrown@ctpost.com.

    1. Stephanie Thompson, here is the end result of that case 4 years after mother and her three young children perished in a blaz.

      “$2.75 million settlement in fire that killed 4”
      Dec. 14, 2013
      A mother and her three young children perished in a blaze that engulfed their housing complex apartment, sending ripples through the city’s large public housing population about the safety of those complexes. In the days following the fire residents of the housing complex and community activists raised questions about fire safety in the West Side complex, citing the unit’s single door for entry and exits and the lack of sprinklers and fire escapes. A state fire marshal’s report later declare…



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