WILLIAMS OP-ED: BAD BUDGET REWARDS THE BAD GUYS

The chapter on so-called “budget implementers” is one that many people in the halls of state government hope is skipped during the public school lessons on how a bill becomes a law. Ergo the legislature’s latest debate on whether some of our most hardened criminals should be considered for early release from prison.

This seedy legislative language was part of a large “implementer” bill. While the actual state budget bill contains the seemingly never ending lists of taxes and spending in state government, implementers are bills that detail exactly how that money will be spent. Implementers are the meat to the budget bones, if you will. Incredibly, this particular implementer included provisions designed to decrease prison populations at the risk of public safety.

The bill will soften Connecticut’s criminal laws, allowing repeat DWI offenders to serve little or no jail time, regardless of the number of convictions and actually gives the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections the authority to sentence them to serve their time at home.

As if that isn’t bad enough, the bill makes all incarcerated persons, except for those convicted of a capital felony, eligible for these risk reduction earned credits, effective immediately and retroactive to April 1, 2006. The retroactivity could potentially reduce the sentences of certain incarcerated individuals by up to 300 days.

The individuals who could benefit from these credits include felons convicted of murder, rape, sexual assault against a minor, arson, armed robbery, home invasion, and burglary.

The broader policy question is why are we giving incarcerated inmates—including sex offenders—a clear path to early release? What public policy benefit is there to giving such broad authority to release violent offenders from prison? If there is one thing that people expect from state government, it is to protect its citizens.

Connecticut has many laws on the books and the people who break these laws are punished. If that punishment requires a tough prison sentence, we in society should be able to take some comfort in the fact that these dangerous offenders serve their sentence without getting “good time credit” and pay the price for breaking our laws.

Let the people of Connecticut who practice the so-called “good time credit” every day of their lives feel safe and protected not these dangerous felons.

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