GOP talks about prisoner early release program [WTNH]

September 11, 2014

WTNH Report

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A man let out of prison before his sentence was up is charged with stabbing and killing a baby girl. Now Senate Republicans are demanding changes to what they call the early release program.

The official name is the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program. The idea is inmates sign up for programs and do positive things in prison, and they earn credits towards early release. The governor’s office says it’s working. Senate Republicans say a baby stabbed to death in Bristol last month proves that it’s not.

“Do you think it’s responsible for the state to say that someone should get out of jail early because they took a drug rehabilitation program, yet they tested positive for drug use,” said Sen. John McKinney, (R) Senate Minority Leader.

Senate Republicans say that’s what happened with 36 year-old Arthur Hapgood. Last month, Bristol police say he stabbed and killed a one year old baby girl while he was high on drugs. He is a known drug user and convicted drug dealer. Republican Senators looked into his early release and found while Hapgood was in prison he got in trouble for fighting, not following orders, and for failing multiple drug tests, yet he still accumulated credits towards early release. Some of those credits were for successfully completing a drug addiction program…

“In 2013, after all of this, after everything he’s done to date, he gets released because he earned 233 risk reduction credits,” Sen. Len Fasano, (R) East Haven, said.

Republicans say the Department of Correction just rubber stamps the earned credit programs.

Even after Hapgood was out of prison, he was still subject to drug tests, which he kept failing, right up until he allegedly stabbed that one year old to death.

“Turned out that test result which came in the day that the incident happened, that result showed positive for marijuana and PCP,” Sen. Fasano said.

The Department of Correction says Hapgood served 90% of his term and even if he had served 100%, he still would have been out weeks before he allegedly murdered the baby. Governor Malloy’s office states that “fewer people are getting out of prison today than under prior administrations.”

“This murder allegedly happened because he was using drugs, but this policy says you got out early because you were treated for drugs,” Sen. McKinney said. “So there’s a direct relationship here regardless of when he got out.”

The Republicans say someone needs to be accountable and check on individual inmates instead of just counting credits for programs. The governor’s office points out Senators McKinney and Fasano who you just saw there both voted in favor of the earned credit program. Republicans say that’s not correct. A spokesman told News 8 in an email “They voted ‘No’ on the bill that first implemented the program (Public Act 11-51). The only related bill they voted yes on was the legislation that actually limited the RREC program for violent offenders” (Public Act 13-3).

The governor’s office says voting for that provision in the gun bill is an endorsement of the earned credit program.