Connecticut Governor Bans Parole for Violent Offenders

Gov. M. Jodi Rell banned parole on Friday for all Connecticut inmates serving prison time for violent offenses following a string of crimes police say were committed by parolees.

The parole ban will be in effect until state lawmakers reform its parole process, she said. Critics worried the move would swell the state's already crowded prisons.

"I will not allow public safety to be jeopardized because parolees return to a life of crime," Rell, a Republican, said.

Rell's announcement came two months after two convicted burglars on parole were charged in a violent home invasion in the wealthy town of Cheshire that left a woman and her two daughters dead. The governor's decision also was influenced by a Friday conflict in which New York City police shot and wounded a state parolee they said threatened them with a knife.

The governor directed the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to immediately review all parolees who were sentenced for violent crimes. She said any of those convicts who are in violation of their paroles will be returned to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences.

Robert Farr, chairman of the state parole board, said the governor's request is a "perfectly appropriate step."

"All she's asking for is a review of the violent offenders out there," Farr said Friday night. "We were already reviewing burglars and we'll just expand it. It's more work but it's something we're prepared to do."

All criminals convicted of violent offenses in the state were already required to serve 85 percent of their sentences; the ban means they will serve it all.

State lawmakers and other officials have been discussing parole reforms since the Cheshire killings in July. But majority Democrats declined this week to take up parole reform bills during a special session.

Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the state prison population could increase by 1,500 within the next year because of the parole ban. Lawmakers will likely convene a special session to address the issue, he said.

The committee is considering several proposals, including building new prisons, enacting a stronger "three strikes and you're out" law and classifying home invasion as a violent crime to increase prison time, Lawlor, a Democrat, said.

"This is truly an emergency that we're going to have to deal with," Lawlor said.

Since the Cheshire slayings, the parole board has reclassified burglars who break into occupied homes as violent offenders. That means they must complete at least 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for parole. In the past, they needed to serve at least 50 percent.

The two suspects in the Cheshire killings, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, are both being held in $15 million bond and face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.