Thursday, August 09, 2012

Markley Joins Call for Suspension of Controversial Early Release Program

Sen. Joe Markley (R-Southington) has written to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urging the governor to suspend the state’s new program which enables violent felons to be released early from prison.

In the letter, Sen. Markley cited the recent case involving Frankie Resto, who is charged with the June 27 murder of 70-year-old Meriden small business owner Ibrahim Ghazal. Resto, a violent felon, had been released early from prison under the state’s new Risk Reduction Earned Credit (RREC) program.

“Serious questions about the implementation of the RREC program and the threat to the safety of the public make the situation urgent,” Sen. Markley said. “The non-partisan Office of Victim Advocate agrees that there appear to be major flaws in the program that need to be investigated before another tragedy occurs.”

Sen. Markley said that Resto received jail time in 2007 for convictions stemming from two armed robberies. While behind bars he earned 199 days’ worth of credits toward early release by taking counseling and self-help courses. Without those credits, he would have been locked up until this fall. Sen. Markley noted that despite successfully completing several treatment courses while in prison, Resto earned only 199 of 309 possible early release credits because he was not a model prisoner. Resto was cited in September 2006 for stealing from another prisoner and getting into a fight. He was cited for conspiring to possess contraband in January 2007; assaulting others in October 2007 and May 2008; fighting (again) in July 2008; and being cited for disobedience in February 2009, intoxication in March 2011, and causing a disturbance in September 2011. Resto was identified as a gang member in early 2009 and placed in a special security risk group as a result.

During a 2010 parole hearing, the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles Chairman told Resto, “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.”

“Failure to be a model prisoner should be enough to trigger a ban of that inmate from earning any credits,” Sen. Markley said. “Yet, this individual, whose history involves violent crimes and who was disciplined further while already in jail, was deemed eligible for 199 days of credits. This law failed the Ghazal family. It is endangering public safety, and action must be taken quickly so that it doesn't fail other families and victims.”

The Department of Correction (DOC) has reported that 7,589 inmates - including Resto - have been released through the RREC program since it began September 1, 2011. Independent State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz has discovered that many of the offenders are being granted RREC for simply signing up for a program rather than completing the program. Cruz also found inmates have been denied parole for failure to complete required programs while at the same time earning risk reduction credits for enrolling in programs they do not need. For example a sex offender who refuses to sign up for sex offender treatment as required, is instead signing up for programs such as study of the Philippines. Once they sign up they are receiving credits to get out early.

“It has been noted that in passing the program, the General Assembly blew on a dandelion full of seeds that will take root everywhere in Connecticut, not only in Meriden,” Sen. Markley said. “That is why I am urging the governor to suspend the early release program immediately. It is time to put victims first and time to stop coddling violent criminals.”

The following is a partial list of criminal convictions eligible for reduced prison sentences in Connecticut under the early release law:

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.
Animal cruelty.

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