Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Lawlor-Malloy Early Release Program and the Public Good

It has been well established ever since Governor Dannel Malloy had been hoisted into the governor’s office by a slim vote margin that Mr. Malloy rarely has met a political opportunity he has not eagerly taken advantage of.

If former Governor Jodi Rell was modest in this regard, Mr. Malloy is in comparison shameless. In the last few weeks alone, Mr. Malloy has appeared as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention where he gleefully skewered Republicans; he joined a picket line to express his solidarity with union strikers; he traveled to China, where forced abortions are routine, to curry favor with Chinese leaders, presumably with a view of increasing China’s market share in Connecticut. The long list unreels in tandem with Mr. Malloy’s crowded calendar.  Mr. Malloy’s grasp extends much further than those of his Connecticut critics, none of whom make regular appearances on National TV shows such as "Morning Joe.”

If Republicans ever were to be so bold as to accuse Mr. Malloy of engaging in cheap political stunts for opportunistic reasons, they instantly would be pilloried from political post to political post as cheap opportunists, precisely the charge Michael Lawlor, Mr. Malloy’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy and planning in the state budget office, has publically leveled against several Republican leaders in a media release sent to news outlets in Connecticut and beyond.

Those Republicans cited more than once as political grandstanders by Mr. Lawlor might justly reply to Mr. Lawlor’s effronteries by recounting well known maxims: pots calling kettles black; politicians with logs in their eyes remarking critically on the slivers in the eyes of their political opponents.

To all this the Malloyalists might justly reply that Mr. Malloy’s crowded schedule and his partisan posturing advance the public good. As to the charge of political opportunism, well sir: Fish swim, birds fly and politicians do politics. One politician’s opportunism is another politician’s patriotic endeavor to advance the public good.

And here we come to the nub of the matter. With regard to Connecticut’s early release program, there is only one question worth discussing: Does the program advance the public good? And there is a related question: If the Lawlor-Malloy early release program did not contribute to the public good, how would we know it?

Connecticut’s early release program is the much pampered brain child of Mr. Lawlor. The program was hustled into a legislative bill without the benefit of a public hearing in the closing days of the last legislative session – over voluble objections by Republicans in the General Assembly that early release should not be given to violent offenders. The program was smuggled past its critics, mostly Republicans who, at the very beginning of the Malloy administration, had been shooed away from the legislative table as Mr. Malloy and union leaders settled on a budget that likely was never in balance.

After a violent murder had been committed in Meriden by an early release prisoner who NEVER should have been given get-out-of-jail-early-release-credits – distributed retroactively by Mr. Lawlor and Mr. Malloy to 7,580 prisoners – State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz, Republican State Senator Len Suzio, who lives three blocks from EZMart where the murder had been committed, and other concerned legislators began to call for a public hearing the purpose of which would be to review shortcomings in the Lawlor-Malloy early release program. Following a careful presentation of available data on the program, Ms. Cruz’s job was posted by disgruntled, publicity shy Malloyalists, possibly in an effort to intimidate her.

Mr. Lawlor, once co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and his former colleagues in the General Assembly signaled their strenuous opposition to the suggested review hearing. And when Republicans announced they would hold a public hearing – because in their view a suspension and review of the program was necessary to secure the public’s safety -- even though the hearing were to be boycotted by Democratic legislators, Mr. Lawlor, anticipating his baby would be thrown out with the wash water, accused the following Republican Judiciary Committee members of unconscionable politicking: Ranking members John Kissel and John Hetherington and members Jason Welch and Andrew Roraback. Republican Minority leader John McKinney, a courageous and outspoken  critic of the program, also attended. The lone Democrat in attendance was Vice Chair Gary Holder-Winfield.

The broadcast of the Hearing on the Risk Reduction Credit program, including testimony provided by Ms. Cruz, may be found here at CT-N.
Ms. Cruz is much too non-partisan and courageous to survive an administration that “takes names.’ In addition to the real victims of Mr. Lawlor's poorly constructed early release program, some of whom have seen their family members murdered by early release prisoners, Ms. Cruz's job has now been farmed out to spare the Malloy administration further embarrassment. This is not an administration that reacts properly to inconvenient truths. There is not a single reporter in the state who cannot vouch for her sterling character, though none of them carry enough weight to prevent her head from falling into the Malloyalist basket. If Mr. Holder-Winfied was not present at the boycotted hearing at the sufferance of Mr. Lawlor and Mr. Malloy, one hopes he has a sufficient political insurance policy.


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