I resisted. I tried very hard. I clenched my fists. I got up and walked away from the computer. I let it be for a few days, thinking it would pass. Then I read this story.
Heinous, depraved, disgusting crimes no doubt. Do they warrant a review of the parole system? Absolutely not. [That's not to say that the parole system doesn't warrant reviewing, but my point is that this should not be the sole cause. There are plenty of things wrong with the parole system here.] Both men had lengthy criminal records, but the crimes were non-violent. In Connecticut, there are two eligibility classes: 50% (non-violent) and 85% (violent).
Here’s the thing, though: Even if you’re convicted of a non-violent offense, parole has the authority to (and frequently does) classify you as violent based on history, facts of the case, even nolled or dismissed charges. In some cases, the history stretches back 10 years. Their “unofficial” policy is that if an individual has two violent felony convictions in the last 10 years, then even if the current conviction is non-violent, they are automatically classified at 85%. I have previously written about CT’s parole system here.
One of these guys had served almost 4 years of a 5 year sentence and the other had served half of a nine year sentence. By all accounts, they were model inmates and not a hint of violence in their backgrounds.
Bob Farr, Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles said:
“Both offenders were deemed to be appropriate candidates for supervised parole based on their criminal history, which involved the minimum level of violence.”
“The board took a look at the history. They took a look at crimes and whether they were violent offenses, and under most standards, the individuals had no history of violent crimes they have now been charged with.
A Department of Correction spokesperson had this to say:
“Both were on a weekly reporting schedule with their parole officers and had been in full compliance with the requirements of their release, including being employed on a full-time basis.”
Yet state lawmakers are calling for a “review of parole procedures”. I hate to say it and I feel awful doing so, given the tragedies, but sometimes, these things happen. You cannot control it. As much as I dislike parole policies in Connecticut, I cannot blame them here. They are not soothsayers; they cannot see into the future.
“How do we review candidates for parole? Even though violence is not in their past record, but it shows what they can do in the future. We have to ask that question,” [State Rep.] Caligiuri said.
Read that again. Tell me if that makes any sense. Violence is not in their past, but it (what is it?) shows what they can do in the future. What shows what?
He also said
“…these men seem to have conspired to commit even more heinous crimes, instead of being rehabilitated in the state system.”
Ah, there you have it. Although he doesn’t realize he’s saying it, the question is truly: Do prisons rehabilitate and do our prisons rehabilitate? What is being done in correctional facilities in Connecticut to ensure that inmates re-enter society as productive, responsible members? Frankly, given the state of overcrowding in facilities, how much can they do?
Which is what makes this State Rep’s suggestion mind boggling:
State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said Wednesday that in light of the Cheshire home invasion, the state needs to reassess the penalties for those convicted of burglary.
Kissel, who serves as a member of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee as well as chairman of the Connecticut Sentencing Task Forece’s subcommittee on racial and ethnic disparity, said that the current law considers burglaries to be a non-violent crime. He suggested that the law be changed to require mandatory prison sentences.
Again, instead of focusing on the real problem, let’s give out harsher sentences across the board.
I’m not even going to touch the death penalty issue.
Having said all this, I would not want to be the guy who has a parole hearing scheduled in the near future.