Is early release of prisoners the safe choice for Connecticut?

    Just over a year ago the Connecticut General Assembly passed a controversial law allowing the early release of prisoners who show good behavior and participate in rehabilitation programs while serving time.

    The bill, which passed along party lines, allows non-violent offenders to earn credit for early release with the hope of easing the fiscal burden of the prison system.

    Prisoners sentenced for violent crimes are not eligible for the program, according to its supporters.

    Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, criticized the bill during the debate on its passage last year.

    “This is a money-saving bill. This isn’t good policy,” he said. “It is the entire world turned upside down.”

    Republicans, who voted against the bill, were skeptical about those who would be eligible for the program and it appears their worries are becoming reality as recent murders in East Hartford and Meriden have been linked to prisoners awarded early release.

    Frankie Resto, an inmate released early through the risk reduction program, allegedly gunned down Ibrahim Ghazal, a convenient store owner in Meriden.

    And in East Harford, another inmate out on early release allegedly murdered Luthfur Tarafdar. The suspect’s extensive criminal background includes robbery, assault and violation of probation, but he was still allowed early release from prison.

    And these are not the only alarming stories surrounding the controversial program.

    The New London Day reports the story of a woman named “K” who was recently informed that the man who had kidnapped and raped her would be eligible for early release under the new program.

    During her attacker’s sentencing, the Judge labeled him an, “extremely dangerous predator.”

    Even more troubling is the way in which the early release program is structured. Prisoners are able to register for such programs, and in the event that the classes are filled, they will be placed on waitlists.

    “In some cases there are waiting lists, but the offenders are not penalized because of that, as long as they are signed up,” said a Department of Correction spokesman.

    According to the Courant, after Resto’s early release from prison he was not assigned a parole officer. He left the state and violated his probation four times before allegedly murdering Ghazal.

    Between September 2011 and June 2012, 7,789 prisoners received credits toward early release. As of July 2012, Connecticut prisons held 16,591 inmates.

    Republican members of the General Assembly along with Michelle Cruz, Connecticut’s victim advocate, have called for a suspension of the program, but the administration stands by it.

    Kelly Delaney is an intern at the Yankee Institute. She is currently working toward a doctorate in political science with a concentration in American politics and international relations from the University of Connecticut. She lives in West Hartford.