A Simple Plan For Reducing CT's Prison Population This Week

            It is only a matter of days until COVID-19 takes root in one of Connecticut’s prisons, infecting both guards and inmates. The results will be catastrophic. Inmates and prisoner activists are experimenting with lawsuits and administrative requests to provide relief before disaster strikes. The pace of litigation, even expedited litigation, is too slow.
            What’s needed is decisive executive leadership from Gov. Ned Lamont.
            Here’s a plan he can execute in a matter of days, not weeks. He should begin work on it immediately. The goal is to reduce the prison policy as much as can be done consistent with public safety. The hope is that a reduced prison capacity will make it possible to save the lives of those who remain behind bars.
            The Department of Corrections has the means in hours to generate a computerized list of inmates. I know it does, because I’ve been a guest in the records department, and have had access to computer generated lists in connection with litigation involving guards and inmates.
            Generate a list of all inmates who are eligible for release to the community on parole once they have served 50 percent of their sentence. These are non-violent offenders. (Violent offenders are either eligible for release after having served 85 percent of their sentence; those convicted of murder are not eligible at all.)
            Then sort that list in terms of estimated release dates, ranked from those the soonest release date to the latest. I’m betting there are hundreds of the 12,000 prisoners eligible for early release in the next year.
            Then sort that list scoring for disciplinary issues within the prison. Most prisoners adjust to life behind bars. Some do not.
            Release all prisoners serving 50 percent offenses with no tickets in the past five years to transitional supervision, “TS,” with custodianship of them transferred to a willing family member. Begin making calls now to determine who has family support.
            The Board of Pardons and Parole does not need to be consulted for this. “TS,” is an administrative act. The same gubernatorial pen that suspended court filing deadlines and extended statutes of limitations can be used to sign an order accomplishing this. Each prisoner so released could agree voluntarily to report back upon order of the governor, or face an additional charge of escape from custody, a felony.
            Those serving 85 percent sentences should be considered for release using the following protocol.
            Generate a list of all prisoners serving 85 percent sentences, ranking them from oldest in age to youngest.  Any prisoner over the age of 60 whose crime was committed more than 30 years ago should be presumed eligible for release on terms identical to those for the non-violent offenders. The presumption can be rebutted upon a showing of a recent disciplinary history involving allegations of violence.
            For those prisoners serving mandatory life sentences, create another spreadsheet. If they over 70 and their crimes were committed 40 or more years ago, let them go on similar terms.
            This would take uncommon courage for the governor. It would face legal challenge by victims’ advocates who would claim they have a right to be heard. To circumvent that hurdle, hold a one-day hearing, let’s say on Thursday, at the Legislative Office Building, where, subject to social distancing, the victims can come and recite their reasons why inmates should be left in prison. Begin the release of prisoners this week.
            Is this plan arbitrary? Yeah, sort of. All plans are, requiring line-drawing and debate.
            Only this time there isn’t time for debate and line-drawing. The governor is on notice. Action is necessary. Delay means certain and unnecessary death.
            Step up the plate, Governor Lamont. Now is the time for leadership.

Comments: (2)

  • Curious
    As a Connecticut psychologist who works with adults released from prison on probation and parole, I was already thoroughly frustrated with the restrictions and conditions of probation with which these person must abide. Like everything else in this era of Covid-19, the virus has revealed the horrific and disparate inequities that were already in place in "the system" constituting a form of state sanctioned punishment. I am with you 1000% on reducing the prison population on a variety of grounds. My question is: in a "system" that already cannot work to meet the variety of basic essential daily living needs for those rehabilitating out of prison (which, I would argue -- beside monitoring tor risk and recidivism and possible VOP's is an integral aspect of their mission) how can we insure that in reducing the prison population that there can be sufficient social services and supports in place so that these folks can enjoy a life of relative freedom and the responsibility this requires at the highest degree of ensuring that their personal safety and security is assured? The State should do something and not act to make more additional unforced errors.
    Posted on April 15, 2020 at 12:56 pm by George Geysen
  • Jail population
    I made a similar suggestion a few weeks ago. The Governor was asked a couple weeks ago what he was going to do about people in the jail. At that time and to this date there is nothing substantive from our state government. One jail facility I recently dealt with this week has several confirmed covid19 cases in one of the dorms and I had to fight hard with that jail to get back just 1 day RREC credit that they took away on the eve of my client’s release from prison. (They claimed they had originally miscalculated the RREC Credit for February giving him 4 credits when he should have had only 3 credits insofar as he was sentenced on the 3rd of the month and not the first. Even though they admitted it was their error and no fault of my client’s and they had represented the release date for a couple months as reflecting 4 days RREC credit instead of 3, they stood on their rules and regs and would not release him even that 1 day earlier. I refused to accept this rigid unjust position so I got a court order within 24 hours adjusting the sentence mittimus to reflect the ERD that had been relied upon all along. So the point of this is: good luck in trying to get any inmate released even one day earlier for just reasons even apart from this deadly pandemic. It took a court order with a bureaucratic revised mitt to get even one day earlier.
    I have continued to request that our Governor address this issue of Covid19 since 3 weeks ago but up until yesterday, with covid19 positive inmates diagnosed in the same dorm, they won’t release them for any reason one minute earlier. It is a statewide mentality I am afraid that has little understanding or compassion for human beings who have jail sentences. (my client had no felonies and was only there on misdemeanors. It should also be noted there was no response from the alleged victim at the time of sentencing)
    I am completely in support of your proposal or any reasonable suggestion to reduce the inmate population as a good start in preventing the covid19 virus in that arena. As it is the jail will not even give the inmate upon release with a fever a medical order to be tested for covid19 where individuals in the dorm had been diagnosed as positive for the virus. They are sending them out into the community without an order to be tested having been exposed to others in close proximity and presenting with the virus symptoms upon release.
    Based on my personal knowledge it is too late because the necessary actions were not addressed when they should have been 3-4 weeks ago while the Governor was issuing directives and mandates for the citizens of our state. Those in the jail system were not seriously considered at that time and now covid19 has infiltrated as expected into the jail population.
    The state should do something ASAP but the damage has already been done and it is serious.
    Posted on April 8, 2020 at 2:27 pm by Catherine Teitell

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