GOP Senators Slam State for Handling of Arthur Hapgood’s Release, Demand Reform

September 10, 2014

Hartford – Prior to allegedly fatally stabbing a baby in Bristol on August 18, Arthur Hapgood was released from prison early thanks to the state’s Risk Reduction Earned Credit program, in spite of failing three drug tests in prison and helping two inmates escape from custody from a halfway house four months earlier.

“We have a public safety crisis on our hands,” said Senator Len Fasano, Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore, who held a press conference today with Senator John McKinney, Senate Minority Leader, and fellow Republican senators. “When violent criminals who reoffend in prison are free to get out early, when inmates who fail drug tests still somehow successfully pass rehabilitation programs, it is time to fix the dangerous flaws in our Corrections system.”

Hapgood, who was arraigned yesterday on murder charges, was previously serving a 71-month sentence for a 2008 robbery. While in prison, Hapgood accumulated early release credits by taking part in educational classes, holding a job, and participating in the Offender Accountability Plan and successfully completing, according to DOC officials, Tier 2 (intensive outpatient addiction services). He earned credit for these programs, while also failing three drug tests and refusing to take a fourth.

“How can you fail multiple drug tests, and still manage to successfully pass an addiction rehabilitation program? When you take a class, you can’t fail every single test and then expect to pass and get credit for it,” said Fasano.

Hapgood was also allowed to leave prison in May 2013 as part of a community release program. However, he received a “technical violation” while in the program after helping two inmates escape in July 2013. He was then sent back to jail, where he continued to earn additional early release credit.

“This whole situation makes a complete mockery of the criminal justice system. Apparently, in prison, you can do drugs, violate the rules and even help others escape, while still earning early release credits simply by signing up for a class. Yes, Hapgood is responsible for the death of the child. But so are the officials who turned a blind eye to his repeated drug use and escalating criminal behavior,” said McKinney.

In addition to Hapgood’s failed drug tests and his “technical” escape violation, he also had multiple other violations while in prison including: intoxication, disobeying a direct order, violation of program provisions and fighting. In total, Hapgood lost 45 credits as a result of these cumulative offenses. He kept 233 credits. The Risk Reduction Earned Credit system has a formula to calculate earned credits, but lacks a formula for reducing credits.a

“An unspeakable tragedy occurred in Bristol last month. An innocent child was sliced open and murdered by a person who should not have been released from prison. And now, no one is taking responsibility for creating the situation that led to this crime.

“State officials have blamed this crime on Hapgood’s drug use, a persistent problem the state knew about while still rewarding him early release credits anyway. It is time for the state to be held accountable for the system failures that have put the public in danger. Instead of defending the system, the Department of Corrections and the governor should be talking about fixing the problems that led to this mess and continue to threaten public safety,” said Fasano.

State Senator Jason Welch, who represents Bristol, also echoed fellow Republican senators’ concerns and called for action.

“Justice is underway for a little girl from Bristol whose life was senselessly cut short,” said Welch. “No policy change can retrieve a life that has already been destroyed. However, the state has an obligation to change a system which released a dangerous felon, who obviously had not been rehabilitated, before he served his full term. Criminals are taken off our streets for a reason. They should stay off our streets, and the State of Connecticut should keep its promise to the victims and their families.”