The state’s prison population continued its yearlong upward climb this week.

According to a new report filed Thursday by the Criminal Justice Policy & Planning Division, the average inmate population during the first week in July stood at 17,115, an increase of 108 prisoners – or a little less than 1 percent – above June’s level.

The latest population mark also represents a nearly 5 percent increase over January’s numbers.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s chief criminal justice policy adviser, Michael P. Lawlor, told The Mirror this week that this surge, which has interrupted a five-year steady decline in inmate levels, is due largely to complications in reforming the state’s parole system.

Lawlor also predicted that parole system reforms would be smoothed out by early next year, paving the way for further steady, gradual reductions in the prison population.

A review found that several parole reforms in the works since the legislature ordered them in response to the September 2007 Cheshire home invasion have been implemented over the last year.

These changes include:

  • A requirement that the Board of Pardons and Paroles develop and use a complex, risk assessment tool for more closely evaluating every inmate under consideration for parole;
  • A more structured decision-making process for each parole application, including listing all findings in detailed, written reports;
  • And a new electronic filing system that provides the boards with much more data for consideration in each case, including police and sentencing reports.

It shouldn’t be a significant problem six months from now, Lawlor estimated, noting that the board has increased its focus on management and training.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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