When the Democratic dominated General Assembly perhaps unwittingly passed Bill HB 6650 establishing a Risk Reduction Earned Credits program for some prisoners incarcerated for violent crimes, the opposition from Republicans was nearly instantaneous. Then State Senator Len Suzio took the lead in agitating against the program. He was not alone.
In a June 6, 2011 media release, State Senator Joe Markley said that the program “amounts to a jail break.” Mr. Markley went on to list the categories of violent prisoners eligible for early release under the program:
Manslaughter in the first degree (with intent to cause serious injury)
Sexual assault in the first degree (sex with someone under the age of 13)
Kidnapping in the first degree (intent to inflict physical injury)
Arson in the first degree (intent to destroy an inhabited building)
Employing a minor in an obscene performance
Importing child pornography
Contaminating a public water supply or food supply for terrorist purposes
Injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children
Abandonment of child under the age of six years
Firearms trafficking (knowingly giving a firearm to someone barred from firearm possession)
Cruelty to animals (possessing an animal for fighting, intentionally killing a police dog)”
After two credited criminals celebrated their early release by murdering two shopkeepers, one in Meriden and one in Manchester, some media outlets began to take notice of deficiencies in the program. But even so, the drumbeat against early release was hardly ear-shattering. Mr. Lawlor and Mr. Malloy hunkered down and hoped for a reduction in the decibel level.
Connecticut Victims Advocate Michelle Cruz stirred the pot when, representing the interests of victimized families -- her job -- she publically petitioned for an end to the program after the early release of prisoner Kezlyn Mendez, charged with the murder of a store clerk in Manchesterreplaced by Garvin Ambrose Ms. Cruz’s job was put on the auction block by Mr. Malloy, and she has now been , a political operative from Cook County, Illinois, murder capital of the United States. Mr. Ambrose was cited by a victims advocate group in Illinois as having been insufficiently concerned with the rights of crime victims.
The early release of Frankie “The Razor” Resto, so called because in freedom he was known for shaking down drug dealers with a razor, proved somewhat difficult to justify.
Mr. Resto was, by all accounts, an incorrigible prisoner. Behind bars he dealt drugs, racked up a disciplinary record that should have made him ineligible for early release and burned his mattress. The Lawlor-Malloy early release program was applied retroactively to the violent prisoners noted above in Mr. Markley’s press release, which means that in many cases accessibility to the program did not depend on good behavior. While serving time for a 2006 robbery conviction, Mr. Resto was allotted 199 days of credits toward early release. In Mr. Resto’s case, a violent prisoner was rewarded with early release credits for behavior that should have extended his sentence. The Lawlor-Malloy program was all carrot and no stick. Once out of jail, Mr. Resto illegally acquired a gun and murdered Ibraham Ghazal, the co-owner of an EZMart store in Meriden, according to arrest records.
The ham-fisted attempt by the Malloy administration to sanitize the predictable effects of its flawed early release program by ridding the political stage of opponents pointing to the blood on the floor may not succeed.
After political operatives in the General Assembly bound by party ties to the governor successfully smothered Republican introduced bills to eliminate the program and bills introduced by Senators Paul Doyle of Wethersfield and John Kissel of Enfield to exclude violent prisoners from the program, Senator Joe Markey forced the Judiciary Committee to draft and schedule legislation for a public hearing by resorting to a petitioning procedure authorized in the General Assembly’s joint rules.
A bill conceived by Mr. Markley and state Representative Alfred Adnolfi of Cheshire that first proposed to prevent the violent convicts categorized above from participating in the early release program has now been redrafted to seek repeal of the program. A citizens’ petition designed to catch the eye of those legislators who, perhaps unwittingly, have facilitated two murders in Connecticut communities may be found here.
Governance in a Constitutional Republic, particularly when it impacts the safety of citizens, is too important to be left to artful politicians. The petition should be widely circulated and signed. The hearing should be well attended. When good citizens are silent, liberty and safety are put on the auction block.