Friday, August 17, 2012

Courant OK’s Defective Risk Reduction Earned Credits Program


The Hartford Courant has ignored its own admittedly unscientific poll, which asks “Should inmates beable to earn early release with re-entry programs?”

Of the 508 responses received by the paper, 89 percent of respondents answered that question “No.” The number of those answering “Yes” was a slender 11 percent. On the basis of a recent editorial, “Give Inmates A Better Chance On The Outside,” one must assume the Courant editorial page editors fall among the 11 percenters.


Had the editorial department asked a somewhat different question – Should the hastily enacted Risk Reduction Earned Credits program be reviewed and readjusted in the light of the recent murder in Meriden allegedly committed by Frankie Resto, a prisoner who earned early release credits under the program? – the percentage of respondents answering “Yes” very likely would have been even higher.

In its most recent editorial questioning the sound common sense of legislators who believe the program should be reformed to disallow violent prisoners from earning early release credits, Courant editors have swallowed, hook line and sinker, the line fed  them by extremely persuasive Malloyalists, Governor Dannel Malloy’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy at the Office of Policy and Management Michael Lawlor  among them, who are averse to beneficial reforms of the program.

As suggested by the title of the editorial, the Courant asserts that the Risk Reduction Earned Credits program, which provides early release credits that reduce by five days a month the court ordered sentences of participating prisoners, aims to reduce intolerably high recidivism rates “by providing classes and other activities to prepare inmates for a crime-free life when they re-enter their communities.”

Rather unfortunately, Frankie Resto was not improved by his classes – very likely because the program is itself deficient and greatly in need of reform.

The Courant mentions Mr. Resto, though not by name, in its editorial. Mr. Resto’s murderous activity in Meriden – video shows him fatally shooting in the chest co-owner of an EZ Mart store Ibraham Ghazal -- after Mr. Ghazal acceded to his demand to give him cash from the register.

Mr. Resto has been shown in various news reports to be a violent criminal. During a 2010 parole hearing he was told by the chairman of the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles: “You’ve got nine disciplinaries ... you set fire to a mattress, you’re a Latin King, you’re not working when you’re on the outside, you’ve got no sponsor. I don’t know, the future don’t look too bright outside for you. You’ve got to change your lifestyle, Mr. Resto. You can’t keep robbing people, you’re robbing people on the street.”

The quote above is mentioned in a letter sent by Sen. Joe Markley to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urging the governor to temporarily suspend the state’s new poorly drafted early release program.

Republican critics of the program are asking that it be revised to prevent violent criminals from participating in it. Very early in the passage of the bill establishing the Risk Reduction Earned Credits program. Republicans in the General Assembly voted against the bill precisely because it allowed violent criminals access to early release. They felt, reasonably enough, then and now, that incarcerated criminals serving time for rape, kidnapping, arson, first-degree manslaughter, assault of a pregnant woman, first-degree assault, second-degree strangulation, first-degree threatening, having sex with someone under the age of 13, assault of a blind or disabled person and animal cruelty, often a predictor of violent behavior,  should not participate in the program.  The bill establishing the program was passed on a party line vote at the tail end of a session usually devoted to budget matters, as noted in several Courant stories.

Republicans, then and now, objected to the hastily constructed, poorly thought out program because they feared it would inadvisably open a door of opportunity to chronic violent criminals such as Mr. Resto, who was not likely to be dissuaded from violence out of prison by the courses he might have taken while incarcerated, as suggested by his arrest for murder in Meriden and several news reports detailing his earlier crimes, all apparently unread by Courant editorialists.      

One murder is not convincing enough for the editorial writers at the Courant: “It's too early in this year-old program,” the paper avers, “to come to such a conclusion. One failure, even one leading to a fatality, is no justification for scuttling the entire program.”

No one has suggested scuttling the entire program. There are dozens of Courant reports stating that senators Len Suzio and Joe Markley, among other Republicans, merely want a temporary suspension of the program until it can be reviewed and reformed by members of the General Assembly who, unlike Courant editorial page editors, are not content to wait upon the commission other violent crimes, perhaps in their own communities, before they conjecture that the Risk Reduction Earned Credits program, as presently constituted, exposes everyone in the state to risks not contemplated by the architects of the bill, Governor Dannel Malloy or his  undersecretary for criminal justice policy at the Office of Policy and Management Michael Lawlor, both of whom have shamelessly suggested reform minded legislators are simply posturing over pools of blood left by Mr. Resto in Meriden for campaign reasons.
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