Should a repeat violent felon be eligible for early prison release credits?
Should an individual who has been convicted not once, not twice, but three or more times of violent crimes be able to see his sentence reduced by weeks, months and years simply by obeying prison rules?
Many of you will be shocked and angered to know that the answer to those questions is “yes”, and it’s because of a new Connecticut law.
I was a staunch opponent of the bill when it was rushed through the state senate chamber last year. Anyone who read the bill could see that this legislation enabled the worst of the worst criminals – rapists, arsonists, child molesters, and animal abusers – to get substantial time taken off their prison sentences. Violent offenders would soon hit the streets and re-enter our communities, we warned. Public safety would be jeopardized.
Republicans were outvoted, and the bill became law. Hundreds of Connecticut prisoners were released every month, beginning last September. In June, a Meriden convenience store owner – an immigrant from Jordan named Ibrahim Ghazal – was shot and killed. The accused murderer had received nearly six months’ worth of early release time.
What happened in Meriden was a tragedy. The program which enabled Mr. Ghazal’s alleged assailant to get out of jail early needs to be fixed so that we can prevent future tragedies. As a member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, I participated in a Sept. 18 informational hearing to look for answers to some serious questions.
The state’s independent, non-partisan victim advocate provided those answers. She provided legislators with example after example of violent criminals who have been released early over the past year. More than 33 % of these criminals have been re-arrested or re-incarcerated in the past 10 months. That recidivism rate, Ms. Cruz warned, will only grow higher and higher as time goes by and hundreds of inmates are let out early each month..
Public safety should be a non-partisan issue. We all want our communities to be as safe as they can be. But as I continue to work to get this misguided law suspended for violent offenders, it has occurred to me just how far apart Republicans and Democrats are on this issue. Consider the example above of the three-time violent offender. In recent years, Republicans and I have called for a “Three Strikes” law in Connecticut which would bring a lifetime prison sentence for those who receive their third conviction for a violent offense like a home invasion. Current law in Connecticut would allow that same three strikes felon – someone who has compiled a scary history of violent crimes - to be considered for early prison release. The difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of violent crime is both dramatic and stark.
I want the public to know that I will continue to put the victims and their families above the violent criminals. What is taking place in Connecticut right now is a smack in the face to victims. I will not stop fighting for them, and I will not relent in my efforts to get the governor and the legislature to rethink this dangerous new state law and to suspend it immediately. If you agree with me, you can help me by signing my online petition at www.senatormclachlan.com .