Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Prisoners to Earn Credit for Early Release

May 31, 2011

The state House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow some prisoners to get out of jail early. The Senate passed a version of the bill last week. 

Democrats want prisoners who behave well and participate in certain programs while behind bars to earn credits and cut their total sentences short. Mike Lawlor, Governor Dannel Malloy's head of criminal justice policy and planning, said, "When all is said and done, this will be two, three four months off the end of a sentence -- not years. But what you get for that is you get a reduced likelihood that these offenders will commit new crimes when they get out, therefore you have less crime, therefore you have fewer people coming into prison, therefore you save a lot of money in the long run and you have less crime. So it's a win-win."

In contrast to an earlier version of the bill, the measure before the house this week exempted a handful of violent crimes.  But other crimes like rape would be eligible for the program. That angered Republican Minority Leader Larry Cafero.  He says he and his Republican colleagues believe in an early release program for non-violent offenders only. “Should we as a state provide them -- at our cost and expense -- counseling, rehabilitation, education? Yeah, because they’re gonna get out some day. But do we gotta bribe 'em to do it? We gotta give 'em time off their sentence?  Someone who’s convicted of sexual assault of a minor? Are you kidding me?” Cafero also used the debate to paint a picture of a Democratic legislature moving much too fast. “We’re making a statement, a policy right now, that if you’re convicted of home invasion you don’t get any early release time.  But if you’re convicted of rape, or rape with a firearm, or sexual assault of a minor, you could get off.  That’s wrong.  That’s wrong. But that’s what happens when you rush through legislation.” The bill passed the house along party lines. Mike Lawlor says the governor plans to sign it.