Sen. Kissel Comments on Escaped Convict from Asnuntuck Prisoner Education Program

March 13, 2019

Article as it appears in the Journal Inquirer

Kissel says an inmate’s escape from program at Asnuntuck was only a matter of time

ENFIELD — Given the ratio of parole officers to inmates at a post-secondary education program at Asnuntuck Community College, Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, said Monday it was only a matter of time until an inmate tried to escape.

The ratio is one parole officer for every dozen inmates, according to Kissel.

Around 2 p.m. Saturday, inmate Christopher Somsky, 45, formerly of Westport, walked away from the college’s on-campus Second Chance Pell Program, which seeks to equip inmates with job skills necessary to become contributing members of society upon their release, according to the Correction Department.

U.S. marshals, state police, Correction Department fugitive units, and local law officers worked together locate Somsky, who was apprehended around 11 p.m. Sunday at a hospital where he was seeking treatment for a hip injury, the department said.

Authorities think he suffered the injury while on the run.

After Somsky is medically cleared and discharged, he will be transferred to Northern Correctional Institution and reviewed for placement under the highest level of supervision.

Somsky is considered a low-risk offender. He’s been serving a maximum nine-year sentence for second-degree robbery that was handed down in 2015.

“With only one parole officer for every dozen inmates, it seems to me that this type of escape attempt was only a matter of time,” Kissel said. “And given that some of the courses the inmates are participating in, like manufacturing and woodworking, involve potentially dangerous tools, I do not think that enough caution is being taken to protect the staff and students at ACC.”

Kissel said Saturday’s incident at Asnuntuck is incredibly concerning.

In the wake of the escape, the Correction Department has suspended all furlough education programs until there is a thorough review of the programs, Correction Department spokeswoman Karen Martucci said Monday.

When the program at Asnuntuck was established in 2016, Kissel made it clear that despite his support for many inmate re-integration efforts, this one in particular “crossed the line,” he said Monday.

With Asnuntuck having an open campus where people come and go all the time, Kissel said he is worried that security around the inmate education program is insufficient.

Additionally, Kissel said he believes the funds for the program could be going instead to law-abiding citizens who are struggling to pay for their education.

Although he says the state should be helping inmates reintegrate, he doesn’t think that those serving time should be granted free education when his “constituents who can’t afford college are asking for help.”

Kissel said he looks forward to the Correction Department’s findings following its investigation and hopes changes are made to ensure proper safety and security should these programs continue to operate.

Despite the incident, Asnuntuck President James Lombella said the college remains committed to the program, promising to continue to educate the eight other inmates enrolled in the Pell Advanced Manufacturing Technology program at the prisons where they are incarcerated to keep their coursework on track.

Lombella said it’s important to continue to provide such educational opportunities to inmates as they prepare to transition back into society.

“The program has resulted in numerous success stories, including job placement for many of its graduates who are eager to access education and turn their lives around,” Lombella said.

These programs, he said, allow inmates opportunities to build skills for careers and help them become self-sustaining, taxpaying citizens in our communities upon release, he said.

He said Asnuntuck is teaching nearly 300 inmates at four correctional facilities in Connecticut, so this is something the staff is familiar with. Additionally, the college is looking long term at a manufacturing mobile trailer to bring the essential “hands-on component” with the machines directly to correctional facilities.