Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Lawlor In The Briar Patch

Thinking perhaps that he was Twitter-in-Chief President Donald Trump, Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning at the Office of Policy and Management Michael Lawlor in late January fired off the following tweet: “Wow, Connecticut gets its first full-force racist enabler candidate for Attorney General.”

According to CTMirror, Lawlor’s target was “Susan Hatfield, a state prosecutor from eastern Connecticut who was a Donald J. Trump delegate in 2016 and once worked in Washington as a young policy aide to former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich…” Hatfield, a Republican, is running for the Attorney General spot soon to be vacated by George Jepsen.

For any number of reasons, this was not the brightest tweet in Lawlor’s constellation of tweets. Imputing racism to all Trump delegates smacks of McCarthyism, and Hatfield is a woman who should be able to toss her hat into a political ring without being peppered by politicians operating in the #me-too era who ought to be conscious of possible offenses against women entering the political theatre.

Lawlor instantly was denounced by State Sen. Heather Somers of Groton, who called him “a hypocrite for saying he supports more women running for state office and then attacking a female candidate on social media.” Somers called upon Lawlor to issue a formal apology. One imagines Lawlor yawning at the prospect of an apology before conferring on yet another violent convicted criminal a slew of get-out-of-jail-early credits that in some cases have resulted in murder and attempted murder.

This is not the first time Lawlor has wandered into a briar patch.

Senator Len Suzio, who for years has been attempting to reform Lawlor’s misnamed Risk Reduction Earned Credits Program, noted recently that Kiwaun Cole had received credits “in 67 of the 72 months he was eligible to receive the credits. This resulted in his discharge on November 29, 2017 rather than his sentence date of May 11, 2020.  He never should have been on the streets in the first place.” Upon release, Cole procured a gun and attempted to murder a police officer in Hamden. “It was nothing short of a miracle,” Suzio said, “that the Hamden Police Officer was able to walk away unhurt.”

Victims of Lawlor’s program will not be amused by its Orwellian title. In the first year of its operation, credits were extended retroactively to relevant criminals. They had not “earned” the freebie credits. Suzio has pointed out, “Of the first year group of  8,727 discharges with risk reduction credits, there were 8,351 ‘readmissions’  to prison for various crimes -- 95.69%.  The high rate of recidivism suggests that few risks had been reduced in the early years of the program. (See addenda for additional data below)

Lawlor boasts a varied background. He graduated from the University of Connecticut as an Honors Scholar in Slavic and Eastern European Studies in 1979, an interesting time.

“May you live,’ the ancient Chinese curse has it, “in interesting times.” The Soviet Union, a rancid ideological bubble, had not yet burst, and Premier Leonid Brezhnev had commenced a ten year war against the mujahideen in Afghanistan, often called “the graveyard of empires.” The Soviet Army ultimately was pushed out of Afghanistan by mujahideen groups backed by the United States and Pakistan. The Soviet Union was officially dissolved in 1991, the same year “Maverick” Governor Lowell Weicker imposed an income tax on Connecticut. Students of communism – Lawlor likely was one – will understand that the communist manifesto written by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels recommends “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax,” among other measures, including the centralization of “all instruments of production in the hands of the State,” to assist the proletariat in destroying predatory capitalism. 

By 1991, Lawlor had been serving in Connecticut’s General Assembly for four years as a Representative from East Haven. In the course of his career in the state House, where he served as Co-Chairman of the Judiciary Committee along with State Senator Andrew McDonald, Lawlor battled for the abolition of Connecticut’s death penalty. Lawlor supported an abolition bill, later vetoed by Governor Jodi Rell. His fellow anti-death penalty agitator, McDonald, thought at the time that death was a less severe punishment than life in prison. “Death is too kind for some of these defendants,” McDonald said.

Connecticut Commentary noted at the time that this excessively sentimental notion was “another bumper-sticker thought that allows an opponent of the death penalty to slather himself with concern for the victims of convicted murderers, any one of whom, unlike McDonald, would rationally prefer life in prison with amenities to death without amenities.” Lawlor’s compatriot, McDonald, was recently appointed to Connecticut’s State Supreme Court, where he was able to join a slender majority in abolishing the death penalty for the 11 often convicted Death Row prisoners whose execution, McDonald thought, would be too kind. McDonald’s has been nominated for Chief Justice of Connecticut’s high court by his political patron, outgoing Governor Dannel Malloy.

In 2009, Lawlor and McDonald slid past the noses of their fellow legislators Raised Bill No.1098 that, had it been enacted, would have abolished the apostolic structure of the Catholic Church.  A massive rally at the Capitol killed the bill. Lawlor’s own penology reforms were likewise tucked deep inside an innocuous bill, perhaps to avoid immediate scrutiny. It is difficult to imagine a legislature voting to accept a penology reform that awarded early release credits to such violent convicted criminals as rapists, arsonists and pedophiles.

God smiling on his venture, Suzio may be lucky enough this time to garner support in the General Assembly for his own moderate reforms of Lawlor’s immoderate and ill-conceived program.

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ADDENDA


Data assembled by Suzio:

During the first 6 years and 4 months (76 months) since the inception of the "risk reduction" earned credits program, the following statistics apply based on DOC data obtained by a FOIA request:

  • 69,912 discharges from Connecticut prisons
  • 51,741 individual inmates were in the discharge records
  • 48,162 discharges involved inmates who had received Risk Reduction Earned Credits
  • 39,176 individual inmates were in the discharged prison population that were released with "RREC's"
  • The first year  (Sept 1, 2011 - August 31, 2012) cohort of discharged prisoners who had received RREC's consisted of 8,727 prison inmates
  • Of the first year group of  8,727 discharges with risk reduction credits, there were 8,351 "readmissions" to prison for various crimes - 95.69%
  • Of the group of prisoners discharged early from prison with risk reduction credits during the 72 months since inception the following serious crimes were committed resulting in "readmission" to Connecticut prisons once again

    • 119 murders
    • 154 rapes
    • 24 acts of arson
    • 1,916 assaults
    • 1,988 acts of burglary or robbery
    • 63 kidnappings
    • 1,542 drug related crimes
    • The murders amount to more than 1 every 3 weeks, and the rapes amount to almost a rape every other week.




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