CT lawmaker pushes to reform state's early release prison progra - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CT lawmaker pushes to reform state's early release prison program

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K’waun Cole was arrested for an officer-involved shooting and attempted robbery at a grocery store in Hamden. (WFSB/Hamden police) K’waun Cole was arrested for an officer-involved shooting and attempted robbery at a grocery store in Hamden. (WFSB/Hamden police)

A state lawmaker is reintroducing legislation to reform a program that lets inmates get out of prison early if they behave well.

This comes on the heels of an exclusive story on Channel 3 last week, about a convicted felon accused of attempted murder on a police officer, who would have still been behind bars if it wasn’t for the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program.

Senator Len Suzio wants violent criminals to stay behind bars and off the streets, and on Monday, he spoke out about making some major changes to the prison program that he says endangers women, children, and families.

“My motto is do the crime, serve the time,” Suzio said on Monday.

The questions about the program were raised following the officer-involved shooting on Jan. 24 in Hamden.

Police said 31-year-old K’Waun Cole was trying to rob a convenience store in Hamden when he exchanged gunfire with a police officer.

“As the Hamden police chief said that day, it was a miracle the officer was not killed in the line of duty,” Suzio said.

The Channel 3 I-Team uncovered that Cole was a convicted felon with a violent criminal past.

In 2007, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison in connection to the shooting death of a 17-year-old in New Haven.

Thanks to the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program, signed into law in 2011, Cole was released from prison in January of last year despite having an original release date of May 2020.

He received 402 days of Risk Reduction Earned Credits behind bars, which allowed him to be discharged from parole in November of last year, more than one year early.

“What the hell was an armed convict who hadn’t completed his prison sentence doing on the streets of Hamden two weeks ago? Why wasn’t he behind bars finishing his sentence,” Suzio said.

The Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program enables most prisoners to earn up to five days off their sentences a month.

Right now, inmates convicted of just eight crimes are ineligible, including murder, felony murder and home invasion, but Suzio wants to add serious assault offenses and forcible rape to the list.

In response, Gov. Dannel Malloy said "I don’t know what to tell you. Our prison population is down. Our recidivism is down. Crime is down. Violent crime is down more in our state than any other state in the last four years by a substantial percentage.”

However, Suzio says the statistics are staggering, even scandalous, and show that in the first so-called graduating class of the program, the recidivism rate was nearly 96 percent.

“To me, it’s damning testimony that the early release program is a complete and utter failure and it’s poorly named. It doesn’t reduce risk. It increases risk in our communities,” Suzio said.

Last year, Suzio’s bill passed in the State Senate but did not receive a vote in the House.

He says he’ll continue to work tirelessly to get the bill passed by both chambers before being sent to the governor.

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