Sens. Len Suzio and Joe Markley say the latest Department of Correction statistics continue to prove the state’s Risk Reduction Earned Credit program is a “spectacular failure”, and called on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to shut down the program on “behalf of thousands of brutalized victims.”
“And the new data reinforces, compounds and heightens our conviction that it is so bad, so bloody, and so unjust that it must be ended today,” Markley, R-Southington, said in a statement.
Malloy’s office, which has strongly defended the program, sharply rebuked Markley and Suzio’s claims as irresponsible fear mongering, and said they were misinterpreting data from the Department of Correction.
“It is not only unbecoming, but morally corrupt for any elected official to distort facts and engage in fear-mongering to fit a narrative they so desperately wished were true,” Malloy spokesman Kelly Donnelly said in a statement. “Sadly, Senators Suzio and Markley share the same corrosive contempt for truth as their party’s leader — (President) Donald Trump. Thankfully for Connecticut, facts don’t lie. And there is no question that our system today is better than the one that preceded it with violent criminals serving more of their sentences than ever before.”
The legislature first adopted the Risk Reduction program into law 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.
Suzio, R-Meriden, expressed concern about a “staggering” 67 percent recidivism rate for inmates discharged under the program. Suzio, who routinely gets data from DOC, said this includes 136 inmates “readmitted for acts of murder/homicide/manslaughter” and another 183 for sexual assault.
DOC spokesman Karen Martucci disputed Suzio’s findings and questioned how he was calculating recidivism rate. The DOC only gives Suzio raw data.
According to the state’s Office of Policy and Management, new arrests among released prisoners have dropped since the program started, and the recidivism rate is currently at roughly 60 percent of prisoners released after three years, down from 70 percent in 2005. The rates of those returned to prison decreased from 61 percent in 2005 to 55 percent in 2014, according to OPM.
“I can only assume that he has created a formula to re-query the raw data and present his conclusions,” Martucci said “He does not provide any contextual framework to support his findings; therefore, I cannot validate his assertions.”
Martucci also said Connecticut has seen a 20 percent drop in crime between 2012 and 2016, the largest in the nation, and noted the state recently closed the 700-bed Enfield Correctional Institution.
Suzio said he didn’t think the Risk Reduction program was the cause of the crime rate dropping.
“If crime is going down, it’s not because of the program,” he said. “If you’re releasing prisoners early of course the prison population is going down.”