Focus starting to shift in crim justice “reform”

Two news stories today that allow me to hope, just a little bit, that perhaps some sense is seeping into the Capitol. The first proclaims boldly that the suspect in the recent New Britain home invasion had “little rehab for sex offense”.

The ex-convict accused in this week’s fatal New Britain home invasion dropped out of a sex offender treatment program during a 10-year prison stint that involved seemingly little rehabilitation, according to prison and parole documents.

That’s actually inaccurate – he had to leave the program because he was transferred to another facility.

But Williams’ case is now raising questions about whether the state correctional system properly prepares an inmate for eventual release.

“Whenever we run into those situations that are so horrific, it raises the question if our correctional system is performing to the extent that it can,” said state Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, a member of the judiciary committee.

“I think we need to make a concerted effort to benchmark what that optimum program level should be in the Department of Correction, and then see how far away from that level we are,” Kissel said.

Very far, Senator, very far.

Yet there are some that still can’t tell front from down. DOC rep Brian Garnett’s statements remind me of the famed Iraqi minister of (dis)information:

In general, Garnett said, inmates, “can participate in as many programs as they want and refuse to participate in programs.”

“You can’t force an offender to take part in a program,” he said. “You can make them sit in the room, but if they’re not going to engage in participating in the program, all you’re doing is wasting a chair.”

“Can participate” here should be taken to mean “could participate if it weren’t for severe overcrowding and lack of room, facilities and spots in programs”.

Ooops. There’s no such thing as prison overcrowding. My bad.

State Rep. Michael Lawlor, D- East Haven, co-chairman of the judiciary committee, said the case points to the need for more rehabilitative services in prison, but also housing for sex offenders upon release from jail and prison because few want to take them.

“They did not let him out early,” Lawlor said. “Now he finishes his sentence and he’s on probation.”

“What should you do?” Lawlor said. “You should have a place you can force him to go while he’s on probation. No such place exists. That is the problem.”

And no one wants these places in their towns.

The second story is about Gov. Rell’s top secret meeting with law enforcement yesterday (from which Dem legislators – who control the legislature – were excluded). After that meeting, there were no calls for three-strikes laws, but rather a call to streamline the persistent offender statutes and more funding for GPS monitoring.

“The current persistent felony offender law is like the tax code,” said [Chief State’s Attorney Kevin] Kane, a longtime prosecutor who stood next to Rell at the afternoon press conference. “You’ve got to be a Philadelphia lawyer to understand it. … If I have a hard time reading it — the number of times I’ve read it — imagine how a judge feels when he’s reading it pretrial.”

Senate President Pro Tem Donald Williams, the highest-ranking senator, said “there’s no reason why we can’t work with the governor” on her request to increase funding for global positioning system, or GPS, monitoring to track convicted sex offenders with bracelets that could monitor their movements.

Williams also favors more money for re-entry programs for those released from prison and for more beds for sex offenders after their release.

“I would like to think we’re moving beyond the finger-pointing stage,” Williams, of Brooklyn, said. “My goal and hope is to move beyond the political rhetoric.”

Me too, Senator, me too…

To inject some lightheartedness into a serious discussion, here’s Amy Winehouse:

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