HARTFORD — State Sen. Len Suzio continued to spar over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Earned Risk Reduction Credit program Tuesday, saying the governor’s policy is a “catastrophic failure” that should be suspended and studied.
Suzio, R-Meriden, also shared data he obtained from the Department of Correction that he said backs up his claim that the program isn’t working. A Malloy spokesman called Suzio’s information “alternative facts,” however, and said drops in the crime rate and recidivism show that the program is accomplishing its goal.
Suzio said the data he obtained from the DOC indicates 40,814 sentenced inmates have been discharged from prison with at least one credit since the program first took effect in September 2011. Suzio said that during that same timeframe, 14,008 crimes of a “violent or serious nature” were committed by inmates released with risk reduction credits.
“This continuing high degree of recidivism and the shocking number of 14,008 violent crimes committed by early release convicts who were supposed to reform their behavior is glaring testimony that the program is not working,” he said.
Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for Malloy, said Suzio was sharing “alternative facts” and there “is no disputing that Connecticut is safer today than when Governor Malloy took office.”
He shared data that showed Connecticut’s recidivism rate within three years of release was 34 percent, down from 35 percent in 2011 and 37 percent in 2005. Appleby also noted that violent crime has dropped by 19 percent since 2011, Malloy’s first year in office, and the state’s crime rate is at its lowest level since 1967, according to the FBI.
“There is no disputing that Connecticut is safer today than when Governor Malloy took office,” Appleby said. “That is an objective fact, backed up by FBI data. Senator Suzio’s end game would see more people — mostly people of color — locked up for longer periods of time, and our state would only be less safe.”
Mary Daugherty Abrams, the Meriden Democrat running against Suzio, also accused Suzio of misrepresenting the information. "We need laws that keep our residents safe, but politicians like Len Suzio manipulating numbers is exactly what’s wrong with Hartford,” she said in a statement.
Suzio said he didn’t see the drop in crime as a sign that the program was working, and argued that the drop in Connecticut’s prison population was the result of the Malloy administration’s early release policy. ”That’s irrelevant,” Suzio said.
The Risk Reduction program began in 2011, replacing the state’s previous method of early release credits. The program allows convicted inmates — certain serious offenses make participation ineligible — to shave time off their sentences by completing programs and displaying good behavior.
All eligible inmates were initially able to receive a reduction of five days per month, but legislation changed the program beginning Feb. 1, 2016, to allow between one and five days based on an inmate’s risk level. The goal was to motivate inmates to seek a lower security level to get more time off their sentences.