OPINION: Updated early release crime data reveal catastrophic failure

OPINION: Updated early release crime data reveal catastrophic failure

By Len Suzio

One of the most infamous crimes ever committed in Meriden was the cold-blooded murder of Ibrahim Ghazal by Frankie “the Razor” Resto in June of 2012. Resto should have been behind prison bars, but he was let out of jail early courtesy of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s notorious early release program. 

Resto was on the street even though he had been denied parole numerous times by the Board of Pardon and Parole, and for good reason: Resto had repeatedly violated prison rules, even setting fire to his cell.  Yet Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Mike Lawlor claimed that the “risk reduction” credits Resto was awarded under the early release program forced the Department of Correction to discharge him before serving his complete sentence.

Police Chief Jeffry Cossette told me at the time that Resto was one of the most violent criminals he had ever seen in decades of law enforcement experience. Nevertheless, Resto was in our community when he should have been back in prison and Ibrahim Ghazal paid for it with his life.

Sadly, Ghazal’s murder has not been the exception to the rule. Thousands of violent crimes have been committed by convicts who received risk reduction credits, were discharged early from prison and then resumed their life of violent crime. 

I have an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) agreement with the Department of Correction by which the DOC provides me with millions of records on tens of thousands of convicts since the inception of the early release program in September 2011.  The DOC data is shocking and exposes the early release law for the catastrophic failure it is. From September 2011 through June 2019 the DOC data reveals:

■43,769 inmates received “risk reduction” credits and were discharged early from prison■16,750 violent crimes have been committed by convicts after they were released early from prison having participated in the early release program■155 murders have been committed after early discharge by convicts who received risk reduction credits■228 sexual assault crimes were committed after discharge of early release prisoners■The combination of murders and sexual assaults is the equivalent to 1 murder or rape every 7.7 days committed after discharge by an early release inmate

Other violent crimes committed post discharge by convicts who had received risk reduction credits:

■ 926 crimes against children■ 518 kidnappings or strangulations■ 2,019 criminal violations of a restraining or protective order■ 2,981 assaults■2,977 robberies or burglaries■2,108 drug dealing crimes and 1,681 other drug related crimes

Another interesting statistic shows that 1,010 rapists were discharged early from prison under the early release program. 

During the 2019 legislative session, I testified in support of HB 5527, An Act Excluding Persons Convicted of Certain Serious Felonies from the Earned Risk Reduction Credit Program, which would have added certain sexual assault crimes to the list of crimes not eligible to participate in the program and get out of prison early. In my testimony, I cited the data on rapists who were getting out of jail early courtesy of this controversial program; I hoped that in these days of #MeToo, some female Democrat legislators would vote to add some sexual crimes to the crimes not eligible to participate in the program. 

Sadly, the bill was defeated in the Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote. Every single female Republican Judiciary Committee member voted for the bill, while every single female Democrat Committee member voted against the bill even though it added certain egregious sexual assault crimes to the list of crimes not eligible for early release! Where were the feminist Judiciary Committee Democrats?

The very first group of convicts who received risk reduction credits during the first year of the early release program were discharged 8,727 times. That group of prisoners were subsequently readmitted to prison 9,676 times for another crime or a violation of parole — a readmission rate of 110.9%!

If the recidivism rate for the first-year cohort of risk reduction convicts is calculated, it computes to 82.1%. This is remarkably similar to recidivism reported by the Federal Department of Justice in a report published by the DOJ in May of 2018. That report studied the experience of 30 states that released 401,288 prisoners during 2005. During the 9 years following their release, 83% of those convicts were arrested for committing another crime. So the Connecticut program supposedly designed to help prisoners reform their behavior does not appear to result in better outcomes than the normal recidivism reflected in the federal study.

With almost 8 years of experience, we have enough data to demonstrate that the early release law is a failure, and 16,750 victims of violent crime can attest to its catastrophic consequences. It’s time to reform this failed experiment: Either limit it to non-violent criminals or eliminate it altogether. 

Len Suzio is a former state senator.