Sen. Kissel, Lawmakers Debate Early Release Prison Program [WTNH-8]

September 19, 2012

Article as it appeared on

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The state’s new early prison release program comes under the microscope. Deadly attacks on two store clerks by recently released prisoners has put the issue on the front burner.

The Malloy administration says despite the recent tragedies, it’s working. Republicans say there are too many questions.

Frankie Resto stands accused of killing a convenience store owner during a robbery in Meriden back in June. And Kezlyn Mendez is accused of killing a convenience store clerk during a robbery in East Hartford in August. Both men had recently been released from prison under the state’s new “Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program.”

Lawmakers examine early prison release program

“We have a state policy which very well may have led to two murders,” said Sen. John McKinney.

Republicans in the General Assembly want the program stopped because some of the most violent prisoners are included.

“Rapists, arsonists, child molesters, wife beaters, animal abusers, to name a few,” said Sen. john Kissel, “to become eligible for early prison release.”

It allows inmates to earn up to a maximum of five days a month off their sentences if they comply with certain programs and good behavior.

However, the state’s victim advocate says she’s heard from hundreds of crime victim families upset about it.

“They all proceeded to believe that that sentence was actually what that individual would serve and then they learned later that people also received retroactive credits, sometimes up to 300 days credit,” said Michele Cruz, CT victim advocate, “and they felt betrayed.”

The man who helped author the program says that both Resto and Mendez would have actually been out of prison sooner under the previous administration.

“There’s always more that can be done and adjustments are being made as we move forward,” said Mike Lawlor, Governor’s criminal justice adviser.

Lawlor also notes that similar programs are working well in other states. Others point out that having prisoners serve their entire sentence is not desirable because under early release there usually is more supervision.

“When you go to the end of the sentence, they’re free, and so if you want to protect the community you want to have supervision over them,” said Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, “which is why we don’t generally go to the end of the sentence.”

Members of the Malloy Administration declined to participate in the hearing Tuesday calling it an election year stunt, noting that the state’s ‘Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission’ is scheduled to hold its monthly public meeting on this program next week.