Malloy pushes bail reform; defends early release credits
Malloy pushes bail reform; defends early release credits
March 20, 2017 10:57PM
By Mike Savino
HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy found himself defending his risk reduction earned credit program while trying to renew his push Monday for bail reform and an increase in the juvenile justice system to include young adults.
Prior to a Judiciary Committee public hearing on Malloy’s programs, he told lawmakers and members of the legislature’s Sentencing Commission that his proposal to eliminate the use of bail for most misdemeanors would save the state money.
The bill would spare the state from spending $168 per night on each inmate held in pretrial detention solely for being unable to post monetary bond, Malloy said, adding the projected reduction in inmate population would allow the state to close another prison.
Members of his administration, meanwhile, backed his plan to expand the juvenile justice system to include 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, saying it would help defendants in this age bracket recover from their arrests.
Both plans were met with Republican criticism, though, as was the risk reduction program that Malloy implemented in September 2011 to replace the “good time credit” system the state previously used when calculating an inmate’s early release benefits.
Republicans pushed three bills, including one from Sen. Suzio, R-Meriden, Monday aimed at the program. Suzio’s bill would make some convicts ineligible for the program, while a bill from several House Republicans would require that inmates follow their offender accountability plans, and Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, is pushing for a more formalized process.
Flanked on one side by a picture of Frankie “the Razor” Resto, Suzio said data through the end of 2016 show that the risk reduction program has “failed.” Resto murdered the owner of the EZ Mart at 271 E. Main St. in Meriden in 2012 after he was released from prison early through the program.
“To me, the evidence is overwhelming that the early release program does not reduce risk,” Suzio said during a press conference. “On the contrary, it does just the opposite — it exacerbates and increases the risk in our communities.”
Suzio, who has obtained risk reduction program information through Freedom of Information Act requests, said data show 72.5 percent of the 12,629 inmates released under the program in its first two years were readmitted to prison following a new arrest by Dec. 31.
Hartford Police Union President Sgt. John Szewczyk said a 2012 Department of Correction study found the recidivism rate between 2005 and 2010 was 79 percent, by comparison.
Suzio’s bill, which the Hartford police union backed, would bar those convicted of murder, sexual assault, violent crimes, and who “profit from drug dealing” from participating in the program.
Malloy, addressing reporters before the public hearing, defended the program, saying convicts are serving more time than they did when credits were only given out for good behavior — the program limits the credits higher risk inmates can receive and requires violent offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
He also pointed to Connecticut’s violent crime rate, which is at a 50-year low and dropped last year more than any other state in the nation, according to the FBI, as evidence that his criminal justice policies are working.
Malloy also said the program encourages inmates to undergo counseling, continue incomplete educations, and seek vocational training while in prison. He said that “95 percent of people will come out sooner or later. I’d rather they come out less likely to commit a crime than more likely to commit another crime.”
Malloy said the success also shows the state should continue with his criminal justice reform, including his bill to eliminate monetary bail for most misdemeanors and allow for a 10-percent cash option for felonies.
Judges currently have the ability to release defendants without imposing any financial costs as a condition of release, and can offer a 10-percent cash option. Malloy said his bill would make that a systematic change.
Republicans agreed that they don’t want inmates held solely because they can’t afford to post bail, but raised concerns during his information forum that his proposal would take away discretion from judges.
Malloy said his bill gives judges the ability to ignore the limitations if they issue a finding that a defendant is a flight risk or poses a public safety risk. Republicans said they already have to do that when setting bail.
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz, meanwhile, urged lawmakers to approve raising the juvenile justice system age to include those 20 and under.
The change would make it easier for those between the ages of 18 and 20 to shield their criminal records from the public and ultimately have them erased. More serious offenses could still be transferred to adult court under the proposal.
Proponents of the bill note research indicates the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. Katz said the proposal would make it easier for young adults who get arrested “to become productive members of society without the stigma of a criminal adult record.”
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-Naugutuck, said she has “grave concerns” about the bill, and questioned whether the change is necessary.
She said the state’s judicial system already offers several pretrial diversionary programs that allow defendants to avoid conviction, and has a process to have arrests and convictions removed from a criminal record.