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The Hartford Guardian Celebrates 17 Years


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CSCU Officially Launches ‘Free’ Community College Program


By Kathleen Megan

HARTFORD — Connecticut State Colleges and Universities president Mark Ojakian is getting the message out: first-time, full-time students can attend a community college at no cost next fall as long as they graduated from an in-state high school.

At its meeting Thursday, the Board of Regents for Higher Education approved a set of guidelines for the so-called “last dollar” scholarship program, which will make community college free to eligible students regardless of income and regardless of when they graduated from high school.

The program was approved by the legislature last spring and has been named the Pledge to Advance Connecticut, or PACT.

“The policy and guidelines we take up today, as required by law, reflect the letter and the spirit of the legislation and represents a powerful message to potential students in Connecticut that education is attainable and that we are investing in the future of our state,” Ojakian said Thursday before the board voted unanimously on the guidelines.

Other requirements for applicants are that they complete a federal application for financial aid and accept all awards and that they remain in good academic standing. Eligible students can graduate from a public or private high school or can be homeschooled.

The “last dollar” aspect of the program means that after all the other sources of federal, state and institutional financial aid grants are made to a student, a PACT award will be given to cover any remaining tuition or fee costs. The PACT funds can be used for tuition and various fees, whether a student activity fee or a transportation fee or supplemental course fees. Textbooks and supplies are not considered eligible expenditures.

After the board meeting, Ojakian held a news conference at East Hartford High School to officially launch the program.

“I think we have a responsibility to start to market this especially since the first awards are due in the fall of 2020,” Ojakian said. “As you know, other jurisdictions that have done free college have had far longer lead time to market this, so we need to start in earnest, which is why we are kicking it off today and really making a promise to our state and to our students that there will be free community college come fall.”

The PACT guidelines say that the cost of the program is expected to range from $7 million to $15 million — a wide range because it is uncertain exactly how many additional students will be attracted by the offer. CSCU is estimating an increase of about 5%, or 1,250 additional students. Exactly how it will be funded is also uncertain at this point. State statute requires the state to identity a funding source during the 2020 legislative session

The PACT guidelines say that “in the event that insufficient resources are made available to CSCU, the program is designed to allow for pro-rating of grants or awarding on a first-come-first-served basis” and notes that there is no requirement in the law that CSCU dedicate existing state appropriations or tuition revenue to the program.

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, explains budget details to the board at Thursday's meeting.
Mark Ojakian

PHOTO BY KATHLEEN MEGAN :: CT MIRROR

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, at a meeting earlier this year.

Ojakian said he thinks the conversations are happening now between the governor’s office and legislative leadership.

“I would anticipate that we would see funding in the governor’s budget in February, but that’s still be determined,” Ojakian said.

Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield and co-chairman of the legislature’s higher education committee, said there is a commitment on the part of the state “to make sure one hundred percent of needs are met” and “only in extraordinary circumstances,” would it be necessary to to pro-rate the grants.

“All indications are that people inside the administration and the legislature think this is a worthy investment,” said Haddad, who was one of the key proponents of the legislation. “I feel like the success of this program has been dependent on the idea that the money is reliable. When we say we are offering free community college — that you mean what you say.”

“I think it gives hope to every student, no matter what their economic circumstance, that they can go to college,” he said. “It’s a benefit not just to them, but to our system.”

First published in CT Mirror.org

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NBC’s The Voice Winner Javier Colon Coming to Hartford’s Infinity Hall


HARTFORD — NBC’s The Voice season one winner Javier Colon will perform at Hartford Infinity Hall this Saturday.

One of the state’s most famous Afro Latinos, Colon stays true to his Connecticut roots. This Saturday, Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. at Infinity Hall in Hartford, Colon will have a sort of homecoming concert for Connecticut residents, he said in an interview with The Hartford Guardian.

Statford native Javier Colon

A Stratford native, Colon was a musician when he appeared on the first season of NBC’s hit show, “The Voice.” His coach was Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, who helped him win the competition.

Colon, 41, has also released several albums and continues to share his “acoustic soul” with the world.

He is an alumnus of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music.

DATE: Dec. 21, 8 p.m.

VENUE: Infinity Music Hall, 32 Front St. Hartford.

COST: $29-$54.

TICKETS: https://www.infinityhall.com; 866-666-6306.

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Former Gov. Dannel Malloy to Join Historians and Others to Discuss Education in Connecticut


By Josh Leventhal, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will join historians, legal professionals and others to discuss the issue of education reform at Yale University Law School on April 22, 2020.

Malloy was invited by The Hartford Guardian to discuss his role as the education governor, address the challenges of segregation in the education system, and talk about closing the achievement gap. Malloy confirmed his acceptance again on Wednesday, saying he agreed because it was a good debate to have in the state, according to a staffer in his office at the University of Maine.

File Photo: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy/ AP

Many other education experts and professionals have been invited to speak on the subject of school segregation and the overall impact that it has on the achievement gap. Other topics will include why the gap still exists, and what can be done in order to close it.

“The discussion will certainly be an educational, informative, and entertaining debate,” said Ann-Marie Adams, editor and publisher of The Hartford Guardian.

In essence, the discussion will center on Adams theory about school segregation and the supplementary achievement gap that occurs in the state of Connecticut.

Dr. Adams is a leading expert in the field in American history. She is also a U.S. History Professor, an award wining journalist, and the founder of The Hartford Guardian. During the discussion, Dr. Adams will explain her theory in detail. She will also share the research that went into her book about the African American struggle for full citizenship including a quality education in CT, which in essence is the book’s innermost theme. It is also the very first published work that centers on the black Civil Rights Movement and black education in the state of Connecticut.

Dr. Adams graduated with distinction from Howard University after completing her dissertation about the African American experience and their fight for a quality education in Connecticut from the colonial period to the twentieth century. It is the first scholarly publication that covers the entire arc of the black presence in Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition, Dr. Adams has been covering the topic of education for more than 20 years at many prominent publications such as The Hartford Courant, the Norwich Bulletin, and the Times-Herald Record

There will be a short question and answer session after the debate, so participants are asked to bring questions. Please email editor@thehartfordguardian.com for sponsorship details.

The Hartford Guardian is published by the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2004. Early bird tickets are $35 each. After Feb. 15, 2020, tickets will increase to $40/each. Please note that the cost of tickets and other donations are tax deductible.

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Lighting the way to safe, permanent homes for kids


By Josiah Brown

November is National Adoption Month.  Amid the opioid epidemicwith the number of Connecticut children in foster care increasing past 4,300 (after having earlier dropped below 4,000)— and with the total number of children under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction due to abuse or neglect exceeding 10,000 per year— let’s consider ways to help these young people secure safe, permanent homes.

All children deserve this, whether with their biological families, extended kin, or adoptive families.  Let’s also recognize people who open their homes as foster parents, during traumatic periods of transition.

Public consciousness around adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is growing. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found six in 10 Americans experience at least one adverse experience such as household violence, drug or alcohol or sexual abuse, or incarceration of a family member— during childhood.  Nearly one in six endure four or more different types of such experiences, with women and African Americans among those at greater risk.

According to the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat, “Preventing ACEs can help children and adults…. The more types of ACEs a person has, the higher their risk for negative outcomes, which will limit their opportunities.”  Dangers range from health conditions like diabetes, depression, and hypertension to struggles with school, work, and relationships.

Progress, but serious challenges remain

Connecticut is making progress in caring for children at particular riskthe fraction who, after investigation by the Department of Children and Families (DCF, which decides to keep children at home in over 90% of cases), are placed under protection.  Especially encouraging was the move, as former DCF Commissioner Joette Katz notes, from institutions to families; the percentage of children protected in residential facilities fell from about 30% to 8% between January 2011 and 2019.  She observes, “of those who remained there, many have complex medical needs.”

Such progress is bolstered by public and nonprofit actorsfrom the Governor’s Task Force on Justice for Abused ChildrenOffice of the Child Advocate, and Connecticut Alliance of Adoptive and Foster Families, to the Center for Children’s Advocacy and Children’s Law Center.  (New Haven alone has, for example, Connecticut Voices for ChildrenClifford Beers‘r kids, and various school, university, faith-based, and hospital resources.)  Other things being equal, the aim is to return children to their families.  But if that’s not safe or wise in a specific case, having foster care and adoption available is crucial.

Judges play a fundamental role in determining a child’s best interest in such cases.  The process also includes professional attorneys and social workers, to protect children from birth to adolescence.  But these professionals often have large caseloads.  In this process, another valuable role is that of a court-appointed special advocate (CASA).

CASA volunteers can help

CASAs are volunteers from all walks of life whom judges appoint to collaborate in discerning and defending the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect.  These volunteers meet with children at least monthly, getting to know them and their circumstancesincluding teachers and social workers, foster parents and families.  Carefully screened and trained through a systematic curriculum and part of a national network recognized for improving outcomes for kids, CASAs make evidence-based recommendations to judges.  At the center: these caring, consistent volunteers’ relationships with the children themselves—with whom these adults can make a lifelong difference through one-on-one interactions at a difficult time.

The CASA network has an established affiliate in Fairfield County and a new statewide association.  This work is expanding as a result of a 2016 state law.  Until now, only 1 percent of Connecticut’s children in foster care had CASAs, reflecting an unmet need and an enormous opportunity for volunteers to get involved.  In 2019, CASA of Southern Connecticut and CASA of Northern Connecticut started up, received 501(c)(3) status, and began welcoming applications from prospective volunteers.  The first cohort will train in December and begin volunteer advocacy in juvenile courts early in the new year.  Engaging as a CASA is one proven way to help change a child’s story.  Ultimately the goal is to identify a safe, permanent home where the child can thrive.

“Help … light the way”

As Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, says: “Keeping children safe must be everybody’s business.  CASA volunteers play a unique role on behalf of some of our most vulnerable children.  Their commitment, vigilance and persistence offer hope where there has been little.  They help to light the way for these children—and for all of us.”

November is Adoption Month.  This holiday, as we cherish blessings of family and friends, let’s also think of children whose family ties have frayed or fractured.  Whether through adoption, fostering, volunteering in some other way —including as a CASA— or supporting organizations advancing such efforts, there is much we can do— as well as much to be thankful for.

Josiah H. Brown is executive director of CASA of Southern Connecticut (New Haven, New London, and Middlesex counties). Twitter: @JosiahBrownCT

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No Bail, No Justice: How Politics and Poverty Trap People in Prisons


By Christian Spencer, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — For Wayne Francis, the wait to get out of prison was a bit much.

Francis, a Hartford-based attorney, was charged with first-degree larceny in 2017 and had to wait more than two years before he could cobble up about $200, 000 of his $2 million bail bond to get out of maximum security prison. Some observers felt his pre-trial detention bond and delay in prison was excessive and racist when compared to other individuals in similar situations. Francis was charged with bilking clients money, up to $250,000.

Francis, now freed by his friend Barbara Frankson, was placed in a level five correctional facility, the highest and most stringent form of prison security. Francis spent 27 months in a prison surrounded by some of the most violent offenders in the state. 

“Level five is when you have lifers, murders, and Wayne was put in there with them,” Frankson said. “Innocent until proven guilty, is that what they say? He was guilty before proven innocent.”
According to Frankson, Wayne was assigned an ankle-monitor for 30 days and offered curfew after he was bailed out.

“But guess what, he still has an ankle bracelet and he didn’t get curfew. He is still [technically] in jail because he can’t get a curfew. It took him forever to get to his doctor’s appointment.”

Every year, more than 11 million people move through America’s 3,100 local jails and prisons, many on low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, costing local governments about $22 billion a year, according to a 2016 White House initiative. In local jails and prisons in Connecticut, about 550 people were in pre-trial detention.

Some of these pre-trial detentions are because of the politics of race or dire poverty. In both cases, the detainee has to stay in prison until he can afford bail.

To break the cycle of incarceration and wealth-based jailing, President Barack Obama’s administration launched the Data-Driven Justice Initiative with a bipartisan coalition of 67 city, county, and state governments, who have committed to using data-driven strategies to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system and change approaches to pre-trial incarceration, so that low-risk offenders no longer stay in jail simply because they cannot afford a bond.

These innovative strategies, which have measurably reduced jail populations in several communities, help stabilize individuals and families, better serve communities, and often save money in the process, White House officials said.

Second Chance Society

Connecticut joined in on the DDJ initiative. Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration launched its Second Chance Society initiative, signed into law in 2016, to decrease both incarceration and crime rates; a second set of proposals targeted bail and pretrial detention. But it did not pass into law. It’s unclear whether Gov. Ned Lammont will continue with this initiative.

Often, what greets a person entering the criminal justice system is a bail amount they cannot hope to pay. Francis’s bail was excessive and way above the $5,000 that the bill covers but is necessary to consider, observers said.

While prison rates have stalled and begun to decrease slightly for people convicted of and sentenced for crimes, a high—and increasing — number of people are detained in jails without conviction, according to Camille Seaberry of DataHaven. Many of these people have cycled repeatedly in and out of jail and prisons. Some are being charged only with nonviolent misdemeanors. African-Americans and Latinos are held in pretrial detention at much higher rates than white people.

In New Haven, African Americans make up 33 percent of the population but 56 percent of custodial arrests—and similar disparities exist in Bridgeport and Hartford.

Courtesy of shutterstock.com

There is even evidence that the length of time spent in detention before trial may predict whether a person is sentenced to prison and for how long. There is also a growing movement toward more data-driven practices within criminal justice systems, such as risk assessments, though this is not without its concerns of bias, according to Seaberry.

While the Second Chance 2.0 bill failed to pass in 2016, Connecticut has built momentum toward some degree of bail reform. One promising new example, the Connecticut Bail Fund.

As a result of move, Connecticut could be the next state to reform the issue of bail bonds, a problem that continues to disadvantage thousands, who cannot afford bail sentences.

For low-income defendants with minimal bonds, a judicial committee of Superior Court judges is considering the prospect of releasing defendants while their criminal court cases are ongoing.

The proposal would require defendants to have 10 percent of the cash needed for court or a police department under a surety bond of $20,000 or less.

What is supposed to be a collateral exchange, intended to reduce the likelihood that the presumed to be innocent accused do not commit more crimes or skip their pretrial, is now the reason most inmates in jail have not been convicted.

Even if people were to be convicted of their alleged crimes, our due process system states that these individuals that cannot be punished in advance; this then raises the question: why is there a monetary policy that determines one’s freedom?

Oddly enough, holding a presumably innocent person in a jail cell does more harm than good in ensuring that the person does go to trial.

Possible Solutions

According to Dr. Christopher Lowenkamp’s research, The Hidden Costs of Pretrial Detention, that short-term pretrial detention for low- and medium-risk defendants may be ineffective or even counterproductive as a way to secure court appearance and prevent re-arrest.

Although the move has been embraced by the state’s Sentencing Commission, Chief Public Defender, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, many bond agencies have rallied against the potential plan, saying it would cause havoc to the legal justice system, including affecting the employment of bondsman.

“It would affect us in a bad way. It definitely puts a dent in our income. It will affect us from paying our employees,” Edward Angelillo, co-owner of Afford-A-Bail Bail Bonds, said. “New Jersey is failing. Ever since [the state has reformed it bond policies], it’s been failing. The cops don’t look for these people. How many people are wanted and were let go for free?

Bondsman like Afford-A-Bail Bail Bonds do more than offer payment plans, they force their clients, who might otherwise miss or skip due dates, into court.

“Legislators were unclear on what extent of bond enforcement. We apprehend hundreds each year, and if [our company] didn’t pick these people up, the police department are not capable of picking those people,” Brian, a colleague of Angelillo, who wish to leave his last name anonymous, said.

“Some of these people don’t comply. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do, and that’s a high risk,” Brian said.

Contrary to what Afford-A-Bail Bond said, crime in New Jersey has plunged in the past two years since the elimination of cash bail bonds, according to WNYC.

There were similar concerns about New Jersey’s initial Criminal Justice Reform Act that mostly did away with cash bail. On October 2019, California was the latest state to outlaw cash bail bonds with a referendum called Senate Bill 10 (SB-10), or California Money Bail Reform Act. The SB-10 initiative’s biggest critics are bondsmen who decry that this bill will nullify their industry, allowing suspects to leave jail before trial in between 24 and 36 hours.

However, after a steady decline in crime such as homicide and robbery by thirty percent, advocates like Brett Davidson, the Co-Director of Connecticut Bail Fund, are pushing to end cash bail bonds because they unfairly target minorities.

“The community members who suffer most as a result of the money bail system are poor people, people of color -particularly Black people, immigrants, queer and trans people, people with disabilities and chronic illness, and people with histories of violence and trauma,” Davidson said.

“The harms of pretrial detention are too many to name: eviction/ loss of housing, arrest by ICE and deportation, impoverishment, loss of healthcare, coerced plea bargains, the list goes on. A major reason why so many of our community members are being held on bail is that judges and prosecutors leverage wealth-based pretrial detention to coerce people who can’t afford bail into accepting guilty plea bargains,” Davidson said.

The result of being in a pretrial detention can cause job loss, financial hardship and the loss of child custody. The state of being in a pretrial detention can cause presumably innocent person to plead guilty and increases the risk of conviction.

According to the research in “The Heavy Costs of High Bail: Evidence from Judge Randomization,” it was discovered that defendants who are detained pending trial are much more likely to receive a custodial sentence, and to be incarcerated for a longer period, than similarly situated defendants who await the disposition of the cases in the community.

Local advocates, many of whom are broadly associated with progressive movements established around the 2016 election, have voiced their concerns about pretrial detention.

“There is no arguing whether or not person’s wealth determines their incarceration. It’s a simple fact: if you can pay, you go free; if you can’t pay, you stay in jail — and, as a result, you are at risk of losing everything,” Davidson said.

“We absolutely need to abolish this system of wealth-based jailing, but we also need to be careful not to replace it with an equally violent, racist system of mass pretrial incarceration (for example, mass preventive detention as determined by pseudo-scientific risk assessment algorithms claiming to predict likelihood of future crimes.) We want to see the abolition of money bail within a transformative program of mass liberation, community re-investment, and reparations.”

On Nov. 5, 2015, Governor Dannel P. Malloy asked the Connecticut Sentencing Commission to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of Connecticut’s pretrial justice system and investigate potentially reforming it.

The governor requested that the Commission prioritize non-violent, low-level pretrial detainees. These individuals are most likely detained because they do not have the financial resources to post bond.

Compared to New Jersey that already conducted this experiment, New Jersey pretrial jail population is in decline as of 2019, and defendants are still showing up for court appearances at about the same rate, according to NewJersey.com.

Malloy wanted the Commission to provide “an analysis of potential ways Connecticut can focus pretrial incarceration efforts on individuals who are dangerous and/or a flight risk,” according to resolution from 2015-2016.

The Director of the Connecticut Sentencing Commission Alex Tsarkov, who practices law in the Hartford area, states that, although he believes the bail bond system is one that relies on wealth, most of Connecticut’s legal proceedings are some of the best nationwide.

“We have a pretrial justice agency, there’s treatment available, validated risk assessment, uniformed state court system, and we have a culture of release, meaning we relatively release more [inmates] compared to the average state,” Tsarkov said.

Email editor@thehartfordguardian.com if you have questions about this article or leave a comment below:

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Some Hartford Residents Accuse Officials of Voter and Ethnic Media Suppression


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Voting polls opened at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, and Hartford residents trickled into polling stations to cast their ballot for who they think should lead the capital city of Connecticut.

This year’s elections are being held in 165 out of 169 municipalities in the state. In addition, voters will choose mayors, town council members, constables and a treasurer to be local leaders, who have an impact on city issues.

Registering to Vote

You can take part in Election Day registration at a designated location in each town from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

To register in person, you will need to provide proof of identity and residence. Check with your town hall for details on where to go and what you need to bring. You must be registered by 8 p.m. in order to vote, according to the website for the Secretary of the State. 

Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that Connecticut has improved its Election Day cybersecurity systems by installing extra firewalls and expanding virtual oversight of each town’s server.

No formal word yet on how the state is addressing voter suppression in the city of Hartford, which some residents say includes covert operations to undermine voters, removing names from the voter records, physically prohibiting voters from showing up at the polls in the city and other unchecked towns across the state.

Seats Up for Grab

Luke Bronin, the incumbent mayor easily won the Democratic Town Committee’s nomination and the September primary beating out other challengers such as State Rep. Brandon McGee, former Hartford mayor Eddie Perez, media owner J. Stan McCauley, Author and Publisher Aaron Lewis, Union Organizer Michael Downes and Business woman Giselle Gigi Jacobs.  All the candidates wanted to unseat Bronin because, they said, he was not doing a quality job of serving all of the city’s neighborhoods.

In addition, Bronin was accused of media suppression of ethnic publications by working with political operatives—some federal workers—to undermine black journalists.

See ballot here.

There was only one woman in the mayoral race, Jacobs. She spoke about the “divide and conquer” strategy used in the run up to the elections for a majority of the city, which comprises of Latinos, Africans of varied ethnic groups including native born and West Indians, as well as other minorities.

The city council seats that are hotly contested include Row 2A with Thomas “TJ Clark” who was endorsed by the Democratic Party. So was Nick Lebron on Row 3A; Maly D. Rosado on Row 4A; Marilyn E. Rossetti on Row 5A;  Shirley Surgeon on Row 6A; James B. Sanchez on Row 7A.

The council seats facing a challenge are mainly with TJ Clark, who is running against Republican Party candidate, Theodore T. Cannon, Working Families Party Joshua Michtom, Green Party Mary L. Sanders, Second Chance Party Corey J. Brinson, The Hartford Party John Q. Gale, Petitioning candidate and rJo Winch.

The shocker in this election is that Winch, who was always endorsed by the Democratic Party for more than a decade, was not considered a viable candidate, sources said.

Other contested seats include Lebron’s on Row 3A by Republican Party Gary Bazzano and Working Families Party Moise Laurent. Also, petitioning candidate Suzann L. Beckett is also in the running.

Also, Maly D. Rosado on Row 4A is being challenged by Working Families Party Wildaliz Bermudez.

Democrats Shirley Surgeon has no challenger on Row6A and James B. Sanchez, also a Democrat, has no challenger on Row 7B.

On the back of the ballot, Hartford residents have only one choice in who will be treasurer: Adam Cloud, a Democrat.

The four candidates for constables are Ellen S. Nurse, Radames V. Vazquez, Ronnie E. Walker and Mamie M. Bell. The Republican candidates for constables are Randy Correa and Ronald J. Perone.

Election Fraud Alert

The Office of the Secretary of the State and the State Election Enforcement Commission jointly run an Election Day hotline. If voters encounter any problems at a polling place, they should contact the hotline at 866-733-2463 (866-SEEC-INFO) or elections@ct.gov.

Results are also available on the Secretary of the State’s website at portal.ct.gov/sots.

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Kids in the Hall’S Star Kevin McDonald Comes to Hartford


HARTFORD — Wanna learn about theater? Learn from the Kid’s in the Hall’s star, Kevin McDonald. Then watch his show. All shows take place at the Sea Tea Comedy Theater, 15 Asylum Street, Hartford, CTGet your show tickets here. The Kevin McDonald master class takes place at Sea Tea Improv Studios, 75 Pratt Street, Hartford, CTRegister for the workshop here.

Saturday, November 2nd at 7:00 PM

Kevin Cheaters in Love is Kevin McDonald’s rock opera about love, cheating, New York & the 90s. And it’s funny. And Kevin sings!

Oh, that’s a bad thing. But Kevin will be joined by several fellow performers who can sing, along with live musical accompaniment, and that’s a good thing.

Stand-Up, Sketch and Improv with Kevin McDonald

Sunday, November 3rd at 7:00 PM

Tickets are just $20 for this big comedy show featuring stand-up artist by Kevin McDonald. Seating is limited!

Kevin McDonald Workshop

Don’t miss this chance to learn from one of the best, right here in Hartford!

Saturday 11/2 Workshop

10:00 am to 5:30 pm with a one-hour break for lunch

Bring a script for a sketch: Each student for this workshop will come in Saturday morning with a script of one comedy sketch that they have written. (Important: your sketch should be one that works for stage only — please do not bring in a sketch that’s meant to be filmed.)

Bring copies for all roles + 2: Bring enough copies of your sketch for people to read the scripts out loud. For example – if the sketch has 4 members in the cast, you should bring 6 copies. Four scripts for each cast member, one for someone to read stage directions and one for Kevin. If you have a sketch with 5 parts in it, you should bring 7 copies. If there are only 2 actors in the sketch, you should bring 4 copies, etc.

Bring a laptop / notepad & pen: Students will edit and re-write their sketches.

Sunday 11/3 Workshop (2-Day Students Only)
10:00 am to 5:30 pm with a one-hour break for lunch

Learn Sketch Comedy Acting: On Sunday morning, Kevin will talk more about sketch comedy but this time, about acting and not writing.

Rehearse with Kevin as Director: The class will start rehearsing the scenes, one by one with Kevin directing. (When rehearsing, students can read the scripts from their phones — the goal will be to memorize by the show that night.)

Collaborate: Everyone who isn’t in the scene that is being rehearsed will be watching and providing feedback. Everyone helps re-write, rehearse and work on all the sketches. We are creating and producing a sketch show, together. Everyone will be in 1 to 3 sketches. At the end of the day, Kevin & students do sort of a dress rehearsal in preparation to perform the sketches in the show, that night.

Sunday 11/3 Performance! (2-Day Students Only)
7:00 pm
A big show featuring stand-up comedy by Kevin McDonald, sketch comedy by & featuring the 2-day students, and an improv show with Kevin McDonald!
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For more information visit www.seateaimprov.com or call 860-578-4832.

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Secret Investigation After Adam Lanza Shooting in Newtown Prompts News Series in Hartford


HARTFORD — In December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The killings reverberated across the country—and most definitely here in Hartford.

Under the supervision of Lt. Paul Vance, the message one year later to journalists was clear. There was no definitive or singular reason for the Newtown massacre, according to reports by the Connecticut State Police. State police detectives investigating the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda St. in Newtown talked to several practitioners as they pieced together Lanza’s history of mental health treatments.

In Greater Hartford, several locals, including undercover policemen, state police, secret service and the office of the chief state attorney, claimed they were concerned about whether the mental health facilities failed Lanza; and they contacted The Hartford Guardian in January 2014. After identifying themselves as authorized officials doing an investigation in secret, they also claimed they wanted to investigate medicaid fraud and hospitals.

Additionally, they wanted to observe the state of mental health facilities in Connecticut, namely in Hartford, Farmington, Middletown and New Haven. In each case a reporter was followed by undercover agents to decipher the make up of the staff, the quality of care and details that contributed to mental health disparities in the state. This wasalso undertaken by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) in the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney.

The Hartford Guardian, an award-winning, hyper-local publication based in Hartford, was asked to participate while other journalists, gadflies, federal, state and local officials secretly watched with special microscopic devices. The Hartford Guardian was among the few journalism organizations that got to see the inside of these  facilities and can give a cogent report. There were multiple stories that came out of this five-year investigation and many firings and retirements. (Several firings or retirements in the state and federal government reportedly came out of this secret investigation: Aug. 4, 2014 with three simultaneous departures; Feb. 4, 2015 with Dan Pfeiffer, April 22, 2019 with Dan S. Cohen; Feb. 15, 2018 with Hartford Police Chief James Rovella; the March 20 announcement of David Rosado’s retirement; the August announcement of Kevin Kane’s retirement).

Adams and other reporters are eager to tell thier stories that came out of visits to these hospitals involved in this investigation: John Dempsey Hospital, Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, Yale University Hospital and Connecticut Valley Hospital.

See other related reports:

Hartford Courant: Citing Safety Concerns, Feds Move to End Medicare Funding at Connecticut Valley Hospital

CT Mirror: Prospect of Detox, psychiatric bed cuts worries hospital officials

NBC Connecticut, Len Besthoff

WFSB, Investigative Team

The Hartford Guardian would like to follow up on its 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 coverage of this secret investigation that allegedly came out of President Barack Obama, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Mayor Pedro Segarra’s administrations.

So far, we are mulling over several concerns presented to us and would like our readers input: 

The methodology proposed? Use a seasoned journalist to go inside these hospitals to see how the staff treat her as a patient—not a young white man such as Lanza.

By using a journalist that has worked in the state for more than 30 years, these secret investigators theorized, it would be established that she was not hiding the fact that she was a trained journalist. Other measures were taken to ensure her safety from threats by health employees and lobbyists.

 Here are some of the findings in these hospitals that are worth tackling:

  1. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists in hospitals and outpatient care are overwhelmingly white females. In some cases, they are culturally incompetent and erroneous in documenting cases. In some cases, workers falsify records.
  2. Psychiatrists and social workers are sometimes forced to  give a diagnoses quickly because they must produce a diagnosis for billing.
  3. If you are a Christian, the mental health facilities can allegedly be used to seemingly persecute believers. This is one of the most astonishing findings in our research. This was an allegorical case, which involved targeting Christians and claiming he or she is akin to Icarus. According to Greek mythology, Icarus is the man who escaped imprisonment by flying too close to the sun.
  4. Mental health facilities can also be used by corrupt politicians to imprison and undermine a political opponent.
  5. Forced medications can be used to silence or kill someone over time—based on their deadly side effects, especially because of wrong dosages and frequency.

If you or anyone have experienced any of the above or have been forced into a mental health hospitals on a Physician Emergency Certificate, especially using black magic or Santeria, contact us. The PEC can sometimes be used like the draconian vagrancy laws popular in the 1700s. You can reach us at editor@thehartfordguardian.com to be a part of our investigative series about your experience in mental health facilities. To help sponsor this important series, donate today. See link here.

The Hartford Guardian would like to thank the International Center for Journalists for hosting the Community Health Reporting workshop for helping to fund the beginning of this investigation in June 2014. This project was inspired by an October 7, 2008 death at Sands Apartment in Hartford, CT.

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New Movie Going Experience in West Hartford with Cinépolis


WEST HARTFORD — Greater Hartford residents have another option for how to enjoy the movies.

Cinépolis USA, a leading world-class cinema exhibitor
known for its enhanced movie-going concepts, announced this week the grand opening date of August 16 for Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West Hartford.

This announcement comes after a complete transformation of its previous theater that closed for renovations in March. 

Guests will enjoy a free small-sized popcorn for ticket holders during
opening weekend. Additionally, the first 100 ticketed guests on Friday
will receive a complimentary ticket to return, while supplies last. The
revitalized six-screen, 21,462-square-foot Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West
Hartford marks the exhibitor’s first dine-in theater in the Northeast.
It highlights the brand’s signature guest experiences and specialty
film-viewing programs, while serving as the cinema anchor of Blue Back
Square shopping, living, dining, and entertainment district.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the guest experience, and
this upgraded Luxury Cinema with enhanced dining and programming
exemplifies our commitment to offering an elevated and affordable
approach to entertainment,” said Luis Olloqui, CEO of Cinépolis USA. 

Following its multi-million dollar completion, Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas
West Hartford offers guests a movie-going experience with 359
fully-reclining leather seats in six auditoriums, each complete with
cutting-edge sound and high-definition projection technology. An upscale
lounge-style lobby space anchors the entry space complete with gourmet
concessions stand and seating options for guests to relax before or
after a movie.

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West Hartford offers a full menu and in-theater
waiter service for guests to order dine-in food direct to their seat at
the push of a button. Delivered by stealthy, ninja-like servers to
ensure for minimal movie disruption, the menu features fresh
ingredients, gluten-friendly and vegan friendly options and dishes
created with a chef inspired approach — from hummus plates, edamame and quesadillas to truffle flatbreads, salads and burgers — that are
satisfying but also easy to eat inside a dim auditorium. Pending
approval of a liquor license, Cinepolis will offer a full bar menu that
includes craft beer, specialty cocktails and hand-selected wine program.

On Tuesdays, the theater will participate in the brand’s signature
Cinépolis Handpicked weekly movie-viewing program and offer discounted
$7 tickets to all participants. Cinépolis Handpicked is a carefully
curated alternative programming series that features a wide variety of
digitally remastered specialty content, including favorite cult classic
films, nostalgic oldies, special concert events, documentaries, seasonal
favorites, and more. 

Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas West Hartford, located at 42 South Main Street,
West Hartford, will screen movies seven days a week with ticket prices
ranging from $7-12 for adults and $7-9 for children, with special $7
tickets on Tuesdays. Taxes and special format charges may apply. Guests
will be able to reserve seating via www.cinepolisusa.com [1] or the
Cinépolis USA APP upon the theater’s opening. For employment inquiries,
contact jobs@cinepolis.com

Posted in A & E, Business, FeaturedComments Off on New Movie Going Experience in West Hartford with Cinépolis

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