Legislation Expects More of Inmates
New Haven Register
June 9, 2011
Despite vehement objections from Republican state lawmakers, the early prison release plan passed by the legislature’s Democrats with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s support improves existing policy.
The Republicans’ main objection was that the list of offenses that would make a convict ineligible for early release could have been broader. It is hard to argue with objections that more violent criminals should be ineligible for early release. As the GOP members pointed out, among those eligible for early release will be those convicted of rape of a minor or assault of a woman that results in termination of a pregnancy.
Instead, the law exempts those who are already ineligible for parole for the crimes of murder, arson murder, felony murder and aggravated sexual assault. The lawmakers also ruled out those convicted of home invasion for early release.
Early release, itself, was not the issue. As the law stands, people sentenced to up to two years in prison are eligible for release after half their sentence is served. Also, those sentenced to more than two years for nonviolent crimes are eligible for release after half their sentence is served. Those convicted of violent crimes must serve 85 percent of their sentence before being considered for release. Few Connecticut inmates serve the full length of their sentence.
Those convicted before 1994 could shave time off their sentence with good conduct.
Under the new law, good conduct alone is not enough to win early release. Instead, a prisoner can cut up to five days a month off his sentence if he meets three conditions: good conduct, participation in prison programs and adherence to an accountability plan that includes education, job training and medical treatment. Inmates cannot be released before serving their mandatory minimum sentences.
The goal is to make the convict more fit to re-enter society. The Republicans’ objections made the bill better by tightening eligibility requirements. The legislation’s goal is a good one: By expecting more of prisoners, the odds of their returning to prison may be reduced.