In late July a man walked into a Meriden convenience store, pulled out a gun and shot an innocent, hardworking store clerk, Ibrahim Ghazal manning the overnight shift. Mr. Ghazal was married and the father of six children.
The store’s security camera caught disturbing images of the crime and, according to a witness, the shooter—later identified as Frankie Resto—pulled the trigger after the clerk gave the robber the money he demanded. The case against Resto, who police described as having a violent criminal history, is pending in our state’s judicial system. Pending in the court of public opinion, however, is the state’s controversial policy that allows people such as Resto to accumulate early release credits while in prison.
Men and women in Connecticut prisons for a wide variety of crimes, from robbery to sexual assault, are awarded these early release credits for a combination of good behavior and participation in programs designed to reduce the chance that they’ll reoffend when released. I voted against this bill in the spring of 2011, when the Malloy administration pushed it through the legislature to help close the state’s budget deficit. The legislation authorized the Department of Correction to allow inmates to earn credits of up to five days per month—retroactive to April 2006.
Between September 2011 and July 2012 nearly 8,500 inmates were released through the use of these credits. More than 1,800 of those prisoners were classified as inmates who committed crimes against persons—including offenses such as assault, manslaughter and sexual assault. Resto previously served time for two robberies. He “earned” 199 days of credits that contributed to his early release from prison on April 12th. He was a free man for nearly three months before he allegedly killed Mr. Ibrahim Ghazal. State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz has questioned a program that would see a man like Resto receive early release credits.
House and Senate Republicans have called for a legislative hearing on the program—a step taken after majority party leadership on the Judiciary Committee refused an open legislative review of the controversial program. A hearing is both timely and appropriate. Another convenience store clerk—Luthfur Tarafdar, a 47-year-old father of three—was murdered in East Hartford last week. Police there have made an arrest in that case, and early reports show that alleged shooter Kezlynn Mendez also earned early release credits from this controversial program.
State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz, after reviewing Mendez’s lengthy and violent criminal history, called for a suspension of the risk reduction credit program for evaluation. Connecticut’s serious budget shortfalls can be addressed sensibly without putting the public’s safety at risk. I opposed this program when it was introduced last year and I oppose it now. I agree with the State Victim’s Advocate that the program should be suspended until additional scrutiny by the state legislature can be completed.