Former inmate shares concerns with early release program - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Former inmate shares concerns with early release program

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Known officially as the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program, it’s been controversial from the get-go, mainly because of the serious crimes that have taken place after an inmate was released early.

Channel 3 is now hearing from a former inmate, as he exposes his concerns with the program.

Brian Clark, of Middletown, said he served as a volunteer firefighter in New York City during the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, a day that changed his life forever.

“It was something that we as a society never dealt with before and I didn’t know how to deal with it,” Clark said.

Shortly after, Clark got his truck driver’s license, but after breaking his ankle on the job drugs became his escape.

“I noticed the Vicodin stuffed down a lot more emotional pain than it did physical pain and it took off from there,” Clark said.

He turned into a full blown drug addict, overdosed twice, even attempted suicide twice.

Needing money to buy drugs, in 2011, Clark planned a robbery at a former coffee house in Middletown, but a friend told police and they were waiting for him.

“It just seemed like I was grateful to get caught. Finally this nightmare was over,” Clark said.

The former explorer, EMT, and firefighter was now known as inmate 00289690.

He was convicted of robbery and given 27 months to serve.

He decided this was the moment he would turn to God and turn his life around.

“During my time at Hartford Correctional, I went out of my way to get any help possible because if you, as an inmate, are content to sit on your bunk and eat commissary all day, DOC will let you do that,” Clark said.

He said he ended up being released about 45 days early, thanks to the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program.

It allows most offenders, even some violent ones, to earn up to five days a month off of their sentence for good behavior.

Despite the fact he benefited from the program, Clark says it’s simply isn’t working.

“You already have guys who have their time sheet out and it says oh as long as I don’t screw up on this date, this date and this date, I’ll be getting out on this date. They’re already pre-planning when they’re getting out,” Clark said.

He is certainly not the only person who has been critical of the RREC program.

State Senator Len Suzio has also been outspoken, questioning its effectiveness for years.

“The ironic thing about the program is many of the criminals are going back to their life of crime and they’re committing more horrific crimes,” Suzio said.

In fact, Suzio says in the first so-called graduating class of the program, the recidivism rate was nearly 96 percent

Right now, only those convicted of eight crimes are ineligible to participate the program. Suzio wants to add to that list.

“It’s not working. It’s dangerous and men, women and children are paying for it with their own lives and their own safety,” Suzio said.

As for Clark, who has been clean since 2011, he’s now looking to use his life outside of jail to help other inmates change their lives for the better.

He’s also advocating for state leaders to take a comprehensive look at our corrections system and make changes to correct people, not just house them.

“The DOC isn’t reforming anyone and I have no problem attaching my name to that statement,” Clark said.

Channel 3 reached out to the Dept. of Correction, who says the program is working and they have statistics to prove it, saying: ”One measure of the success of the Risk Reduction Earn Credit (RREC) program is the steady decline in the number of individuals entering the prison system since the program's inception. As a case in point, the Department of Correction recently closed the 700-bed Enfield Correctional Institution due to the substantial drop in the offender population. The rules governing RREC have incentivized program participation and good behavior for inmates within our correctional facilities. The statistics reveal that the program works. When compared to two years ago, assaults on staff are down 16% and inmate-on-inmate assaults and fights are down 17% and 13% respectively. Additionally, as it is currently constituted, the RREC program ensures that violent offenders serve substantially more of their sentence than previous 'good time' programs which allowed offenders to serve as little as 60% of their sentence. Arguably, the state of Connecticut has a conservative credit program when compared to other states around the country. Public safety, as well as the safety within the department's correctional facilities, has always been and will always remain a top priority for our agency.”

Recently the governor told Channel 3 that the prison population is down, recidivism is down, and crime is down.

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