We have asked for the program to be suspended pending an investigation of the program's practices and procedures. We want to make certain that the public is not being needlessly exposed to convicted rapists, arsonists and animal abusers who have been released from Connecticut prisons long before they have served their time. The state's non-partisan, independent Office of the Victim Advocate shares our view.
The Frankie Resto case is an example of how the new early release system has failed to protect the public. Resto, who had been released under the new program, has been charged with the cold-blooded murder of Meriden store owner Ibrahim Ghazal on June 27. Inmate Resto had been serving a 75-month sentence for armed robbery and was released from prison this April, almost 200 days earlier than scheduled. Moreover, prison officials were forced to release inmate Resto before a "sponsor" could be confirmed for him. Why did that happen? Because the new early release credits shortened Resto's sentence so much that he qualified for "time served" before a sponsor could be arranged. Prison officials had no choice but to let him loose with little to no monitoring of his activities or whereabouts.
The two mistakes of letting a hardened violent criminal like Resto back onto the street early and without a sponsor were compounded by another factor: Because he qualified for release for "time served", prisoner Resto was released on probation rather than parole. This may have been a critical element in the murder of Ibrahim Ghazal. Why? Because when a prisoner is released under parole, no arrest warrant is needed to apprehend him for parole violations. When a prisoner is released under probation, an arrest warrant is required to re-incarcerate them. Drug tests confirmed Resto had violated his probation, but he could not be apprehended until an arrest warrant was issued. The arrest warrant was issued on June 28, the day after the murder of Ibrahim Ghazal. If Resto had been out on parole, he could have been quickly and easily taken off the street before the night of Ghazal's murder.
There are two other aspects of the new early release program which reinforce the need to suspend the program. First, the new system was rushed into implementation only a few short months after the early release law was enacted. Because of the hurried application of the program, policy and procedures were developed on the fly. The policy has been modified a number of times already and could be changed even more over the next year. Second, the implementation of a sophisticated risk assessment tool to track and evaluate prisoner behavior will not be completed until next year, long after the early release program was initiated. It all raises a key question: Why expose the public to violent and dangerous criminals before this risk assessment tool can be implemented?
Finally, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's top criminal justice policy advisor, Michael Lawlor, has placed incredible faith in a by-the-numbers system for evaluating the behavior and risks associated with violent felons.
The Office of Victim Advocate is developing a study of the 7,589 Connecticut inmates who have been released under the early release program to date. The study will focus on the criminals who were released early during the past several months and have already been re-imprisoned for criminal acts. State Victim's Advocate Michelle Cruz notes that the review so far suggests a recidivism rate that is three times the roughly 10 percent rate claimed by state prison officials for inmates released under the early release program.
These observations all point toward the need to suspend the early release program for violent prisoners. The governor must act now. The safety of the public must be given top priority. How many more lives must be lost before the lesson is learned?
State Senator Len Suzio
300 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT. 06106
Suzio represents the towns of:
Cheshire, Middlefield, Middletown and Meriden
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