‘What we have…is failure to communicate’

Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, filed a freedom of information complaint Wednesday over the failure by the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to give him data about the Risk Reduction Earned Credit program.

Michael P. Lawlor, the governor’s chief criminal justice adviser, said Markley requested a document that does not exist: a list of inmates released “pursuant” to the earned credit program.

The precise release date for inmates, who leave Connecticut prisons at a rate of 21,000 annually, is calculated by a variety of factors, including time-off earned through the RREC program, Lawlor said. Many, if not most, inmates leave prison with some earned credit, but none leave “pursuant” to the program, Lawlor said.

Markley’s reply: “That’s splitting hairs.”

Markley asked the Correction Department Aug. 8 for a spreadsheet “containing the names of prisoners released pursuant to the RREC program from its initiation in September 2011 through July 31, 2013.” He asked for six data fields: Last name, first name, prisoner number, date of release, days’ credit under RREC and crime committed.

Lawlor said that information is public and available, but he insisted, “That’s not what he asked for. He asked for basically an analysis of how risk reduction credits affect every guy who got out of prison for a year and a half.”

Markley said he will be happy to request the data in that form, sans the description of it as a list of prisoners released “pursuant” to the program. All he really wants is a list of prisoners and the credit they got under RREC.

He also will pursue his FOI complaint.

The broader political context is that the RREC is a sensitive issue for the Malloy administration going into the 2014 election, with critics saying it provides an early release to some violent offenders.

Lawlor said the DOC has data, which he is happy to share with Markley, showing that the average time served for violent offenders has risen with RREC, not fallen.

“That’s an absolute fact,” Lawlor said.

Maybe they can review the data after a viewing of Paul Newman’s 1967 prison masterpiece, “Cool Hand Luke.”  Strother Martin has a great line: “What we have here is…failure to communicate.”