31 July 2007

McKinney Calls for Special Session on Crime

Senate Republican Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, is calling for a special session to deal with some of the serious problems with our sentencing and parole laws. It's good to see Republican leaders, once again, setting the tone for an important debate on the issues which affect the lives of everday Connecticut residents.

McKinney wants to improve the state’s “three strikes” policy to help prevent future tragedies like the brutal home invasion that destroyed a Cheshire family last week, according to a release issued by his office today.

“The Petit home invasion and murders exposed Connecticut’s poor record when it comes to keeping career criminals locked up. The two assailants in the Petit tragedy had been convicted of numerous burglaries and other serious crimes and yet still qualified for early parole. In fact, we’re learning that under existing Connecticut law, dangerous criminals are routinely granted early parole, even after committing the same unconscionable crimes over and over again. We need to fix the system now,” said McKinney.

“The Governor, the chairman of the Board of Parole, the Judiciary Committee chairman and, most importantly, our constituents all agree we need to reexamine our persistent offender laws and parole requirements. We are asking Senate President Williams and House Speaker Amann to make this a top priority for the General Assembly in this special session,” said Senator McKinney.

Among the reforms Senate Republicans want to consider is a new “three strikes” law advocated by Senator Sam Caligiuri (R-Cheshire, Southington, Wolcott and Waterbury) that would impose a mandatory 25-year-to-life prison sentence on the most serious repeat criminals. Connecticut’s existing “three strikes” law is permissive, in that it allows for longer sentences when a court finds that “extended incarceration will best serve the public interest.” This provision is rarely used.

“When it is obvious, as it is today, that the laws we have do not work, then we have a moral obligation to act quickly to correct that situation. And, based on the number of calls and e-mails I have gotten from constituents demanding immediate action, I know that Connecticut’s law abiding citizens agree,” said Senator Caligiuri.

Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore Len Fasano agreed. “Connecticut’s existing laws regarding penalties for serial felons and persistent offenders are permissive, not mandatory. We need laws that do not allow for lenient treatment of career criminals whose actions are deemed to be dangerous, but not necessarily violent. As we have seen to our horror and sorrow, persistent felons have the potential to escalate their criminal activity. Our laws must take that fact into account and we should act quickly to protect peaceful, law-abiding Connecticut citizens,” said Senator Fasano.

McKinney and Fasano said they also want to review a proposal introduced last week by Senator John A. Kissel (R-Enfield), who serves as Ranking Member of the legislature's Judiciary Committee. Senator Kissel called for increasing penalties for people convicted of burglary. He believes such an offense should be categorized as a violent crime and repeat offenders should clearly fall under the harsher penalties afforded to persistent violent felons.

"In light of this horrific incident, we have an inherent responsibility to examine our laws as they pertain to the sentences handed down to convicted felons," said Senator Kissel. "These proposals are designed to ensure that repeat violent offenders are not granted early parole and that this is something we should be addressing as soon as possible.”