Hearing focuses on program that allows criminals out early - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Hearing focuses on program that allows violent criminals to get out early

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The state's controversial early release program was the topic of a public hearing in Hartford on Tuesday morning.

The program allows inmates to earn credit toward early release for good behavior. Prisoners can earn up to five days a month off their sentence.

Some lawmakers and victims of violent crimes want to know how the state is benefiting from the program.

"They (victims) have lost faith in the system and that is part of the ripple wave," said state victim advocate Michelle Cruz.

Cruz and Republican lawmakers think the program is too risky because it puts violent repeat offenders put on the streets.

"We have a state policy that very well may have lead to two murders," said state Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield.

Lawmakers believe the program is responsible for releasing Frankie Resto and Kezlyn Mendez. Resto shot and killed gas station owner Bram Ghazal in late June. Mendez shot and killed Belal Tarafdar during a robbery at Circle H Foodmart on Burnside Avenue in September.

"He (Resto) had to be released. He could not be held, even without a sponsor or being on parole," Cruz said. "So once he is released, what happened."

One Democrat leader who supported the program said it is too early to tell if it is working.

"I am not in their situation. I cannot tell them that they are wrong," said Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven. "The best that I can tell them is that the effort being made here is to make some people more safe. Sometimes in that effort, we don't give it a 100 percent correct."

Secretary Mike Lawlor, who oversees the program and chose not to attend the hearing, said a lot of information at the hearing was incorrect.

"Inmates like Frankie Resto and Mendez are being held longer than they were in the past," he said. "We have a system where it is objective. We can sort these guys out."

Lawlor said the hearing was political involving campaigning and he was not going to participate.

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