Lawmakers may have reached bipartisan agreement on gun violence prevention legislation, but that doesn’t mean a Democratic governor and the House Republican leader can’t fight over some of the details.
Legislative leaders announced an agreement Monday evening on sweeping gun control legislation after weeks of bipartisan negotiations. Lawmakers will vote on the emergency certified bill on Wednesday.
The legislation will include language impacting the Correction Department’s inmate early release program.
The 2-year-old “Risk Reduction Credit” program has been controversial since it was passed. The policy allows the department to award credits to inmates for participating in recidivism reduction programs. The credits can be used to reduce an inmate’s prison sentence by up to five days a month.
Republicans have argued that the credits should not be available to inmates convicted of violent offenses.
The language in Wednesday’s bill will ensure that no violent offenders are released from prison before they have served at least 85 percent of their sentences.
What Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero don’t seem to agree upon is whose idea it was to change it, and how it will impact the program as it is already being administered.
During a Monday press conference unveiling bipartisan gun violence legislation, Cafero, R-Norwalk, announced that a provision of the bill would repeal the credits for inmates convicted of violent crimes.
“One of the parts of this bill, as you might see, is the repeal of the early release program for violent criminals. There is also an agreement that there will be no other legislation concerning the early release program for remainder of the session as well,” he said.
At a press conference Tuesday, Malloy disagreed with assertion that the bill will repeal the credits.
“Quite frankly, it just codifies what we’ve been doing all along,” he said. “We required violent offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentence, so it is a codification of the practices we have put in place at the Corrections Department already.”
Malloy suggested that Republicans have worked to politicize the early release program.
“A whole bunch of people ran on that issue, not terribly successfully,” he said.
Cafero rejected the notion that the bill lawmakers intend to pass would merely codify department policy. In a phone interview, he ticked off a list of violent crimes someone can be convicted of and still participate in the program under the current law.
“In the bill that’s before us tomorrow, they will no longer be eligible for early release. That doesn’t sound like a technical change to me,” he said.
Cafero said Malloy and other Democrats have fought efforts by Republicans to remove violent offenders from the program. He said he lost count of the number of amendments the minority party has proposed that would have accomplished the same thing, had they not been voted down.
“To their credit, they’ve retreated, but they don’t want it to look like a retreat,” he said. “They realize the policy they put forth two years ago has failed. It’s become a political embarrassment to them and they’ve finally agreed to repeal it.”
Malloy and Michael Lawlor, his undersecretary for criminal justice policy, said the administration already had proposed to change the statute regarding the program.
Lawlor supported separate legislation that would have changed it last month. And while violent inmates will not be able to be released before the 85 percent benchmark, he said they can still earn credits by participating in programs.
“We want people in jail to get the treatments and the education that makes it less likely that they will commit additional crimes when they get out of jail. That system will remain intact,” Malloy said.
Lawlor said the administration has been unable to find an example of a violent inmate who has been released sooner than he or she would have been before the program. But he said it could happen without statutory changes.
“Without this change, it would have been theoretically possible for some to get out before 85 percent,” he said.