By Len Suzio
Many Meriden residents can still recall the horrific murder of Abraham Ghazal on the night of June 26, 2012. Ghazal, an elderly gas station owner, was working around midnight when he was robbed and murdered by Frankie “the Razor” Resto at gunpoint.
Resto had been recently discharged from prison having received nearly 200 days of “risk reduction credits”. Prison officials knew Resto was prone to violence and was dangerous, but they “had” to let him go (Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Mike Lawlor used that word when he explained to me why Resto was released early from prison) thanks to a law that had been passed the year before, the so-called “Early Release” law.
Without resistance, Ghazal handed over the money in the cash register and then security cameras showed Resto murdering Ghazal in cold blood at point blank range. After that terrible tragedy I became very close to the Ghazal family, Mr. Ghazal’s widow and children. I saw the suffering they endured, and I promised them I would do whatever I could to change the law and make sure another family would not go through the same tragedy.
In the succeeding years, after constant pressure and criticism the Legislature made some improvements to the law. A few more crimes such as “persistent dangerous sex offender” were added to the list of crimes that were not eligible for early release (yes “persistent dangerous sex offenders” were originally eligible for early release). But as it is, there are only 10 crimes that are ineligible for participation in the program. All sorts of rape and sexual assault crimes and various forms of murder and homicide remain eligible for “risk reduction” credit. Crimes for which recidivism is known to be very high, such as sexual crimes against children, also are eligible for Early Release.
To keep the public informed I began to collect inmate and crime data from the Department of Correction under a Freedom of Information Act request, going back to the beginning of the program in September 2011. To say the statistics are shocking would be an understatement. Below is a recap of the most stunning numbers. The data covers the time period from September 2011 through December 2018.
■42,325 different inmates were discharged having received RREC’s
■28,026 inmates were readmitted to prison having committed at least one crime subsequent to discharge
■The first-year cohort of 9.410 discharged inmates were readmitted 9,960 times!
■15,433 serious/violent crimes were committed by inmates after they were discharged early from prison. This is equivalent to 5.8 violent crimes committed every day for 7 years and 4 months!
■Among the serious crimes committed post-discharge were 139 murders or homicides and 195 sexual assaults. Combined, this is tantamount to a murder or rape committed after discharge by an early release inmate every 8 days
■887 inmates discharged early were readmitted to prison for crimes against children (a crime every 3 days on average)
■Drug dealing (not drug use): 2,294
■Criminal violation of a protective order: 1,961
The recidivism rate for the entire group of inmates discharged was 66.2%.
But comparisons of recidivism are meaningless for the more than 15,000 victims of violent crimes committed by inmates discharged with so-called “risk reduction” credits. For 15,433 violent crime victims of early release criminals, the “risk reduction” earned credit program had a 100% failure rate.
Among convicts released early there were 985 inmates who had been convicted of sexual assault. Earlier this year when I testified on proposed legislation to make some additional sex crimes ineligible for early release, I pointed out this statistic hoping female legislators would be alarmed and support the legislation. But the bill died in the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote.
Amazingly, in these days of the #MeToo Movement, not a single female Democrat legislator supported making additional sexual assault crimes ineligible for early release!
Over the years I have been contacted by dozens of victims, particularly women, who felt betrayed by our “criminal justice” system. They’ve told me they felt there is no justice when their assailants are let out of prison years ahead of schedule while they, the victims have to live with a lifetime of emotional and psychological scars. They’ve also told me about their fears and anxieties knowing that the criminal assailants were on the streets years before their sentences were finished – and wondering if they would be victimized again in retribution for their testimony that helped put their assailants behind bars.
It’s time to end the failed “risk reduction” experiment. Whether recidivism is better or worse is debatable. But what is not debatable is the program failed catastrophically and violently for 15,433 innocent victims, including many women, children and minority victims.
Len Suzio is a former state senator.