As prison population falls, chronic criminals remain free

Published on Friday, 4 January 2019 20:56
Written by Chris Powell

Anyone who closely monitors police news from around Connecticut for a few days can easily discern the fraud behind the Malloy administration’s constantly congratulating itself for reducing the state’s prison population.

For example, the East Hartford man charged in the murder in Hartford on Dec. 27 already has four felony convictions and three serious misdemeanor convictions, including a conviction for robbery and two for criminal possession of a pistol.

He is a longtime drug dealer who twice has been sentenced to more than a year in prison. If the police are right, he has just graduated to murder. Anyone might have seen it coming.

A day earlier police in Derby accused a man of smashing his car into another car, pushing it through the door of the emergency room at Griffin Hospital. Police said his blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit, so he was charged with driving under the influence. Two other DUI charges are pending against him elsewhere, and he already has six convictions for driving drunk. It’s a miracle he hasn’t killed someone yet. Anyone might see it coming now.

But along with the thug who is now a murder suspect in Hartford, the chronic drunken driver hadn’t been taking up space in prison lately.

Instead their freedom was facilitating nice press releases from the governor’s office as the Malloy administration stumbled to its close searching for reasons to praise itself as Connecticut’s population declines and its economy shrinks.

Credit Governor Malloy for beginning to recognize the futility of drug criminalization and the harm it has done. But no one in authority in Connecticut has yet recognized that certain people become simply incorrigible and that public safety requires an incorrigibility law, imposing life imprisonment after “three strikes,” 10 strikes, 20 strikes, or some combination of felony and misdemeanor convictions.

Rare is the murderer whose taking of life is his first serious offense, just as few drunken drivers are caught the first time they endanger others on the road.

No, Connecticut is full of chronic criminals on the loose, and even as prison costs diminish on state government’s books, the cost of crime may land with crushing weight elsewhere and should be charged to government’s negligence and political cynicism.

Hiding costs

in ‘public’ education

Nothing on the municipal level in Connecticut spends more than the school system, and between financial aid for local education and direct spending on the state’s higher education system, education consumes a huge part of the state budget. That’s why it’s called public education. But as Waterbury has demonstrated lately, sometimes it’s not really public at all.

For the Waterbury Republican-American had to besiege the city’s school administration over many weeks with eight formal requests to learn how much the administration had paid a school principal to settle his federal and state lawsuits charging that his demotion was motivated by racism.

The administration argued that the settlement agreement prohibited the payment’s disclosure.

But lawsuit settlements don’t trump Connecticut’s right-to-know law. Threatened by the newspaper’s request that the Freedom of Information Commission fine the officials involved with the settlement, the school administration yielded a few days ago, admitting that the city paid the principal $150,000 to close his case.

That’s a lot of money, especially for a financially struggling city. It’s also a lot of embarrassment for Waterbury, since its top officials apparently don’t understand that there can be no secret payments in a democracy, and especially not in what calls itself public education.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. Connecticut.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Friday, 4 January 2019 20:56. Updated: Friday, 4 January 2019 20:58.