Sen. Welch Petition Presses for Suspension of Early Prison Release Program [New Britain Herald]

September 27, 2012

Article as it appeared in the New Britain Herald

BRISTOL — Republicans state Sen. Jason Welch, state Rep. Whit Betts and Town Councilman Scott Saunders have started a petition drive to suspend the state’s new early prison release program for violent criminals and those guilty of sexual crimes, such as pedophilia.

The petition enlists the help of citizens in Bristol, Plainville and Plymouth to persuade Gov. Dannel Malloy to suspend the early-release program, which was passed into law with the 2011 budget.

The three lawmakers want a review of the policy and procedures in the wake of Frankie Resto’s alleged murder of Ibrahim Ghazal in Meriden as well as other violent crimes committed by people out of jail on early release.

Saunders said “Resto was released under this program almost 200 days early in April of this year. He had been serving a 75-month sentence for armed robbery.”

Betts, who voted against the bill last year, noted that “as a result of the early-release program Resto was released on probation rather than parole.”

He further said that “this distinction meant that Resto could not be arrested for parole violations without a warrant. Instead, authorities needed a warrant to arrest him for his probation violations.”

A warrant was issued for probation violations June 28, but that was the day after the murder.

“What people forget,” said Welch, who also opposed the bill, “is that this program was legislation added on to a budget bill at the last second.

“It never went through the committee process and never had a public hearing. The people were not heard on this matter. Our petition drive is to make sure that the people we represent are heard on this important public safety issue.”

Welch also voted against the legislation.

Saunders said that “in the less than a year this program has been in effect, more than 7,500 prisoners have been released. That is a lot of convicted criminals walking our streets today as a result of loosely vetted legislation.”

“We, and other volunteers, are going to be knocking on doors and attending public events to get signatures for this drive,” Betts said.

Last week both Welch and Saunders along with Dr. William Petit and Johanna Petit Chapman wrote to Malloy asking him to suspend the program for violent offenders.