In the aftermath of three separate shootings Monday involving youth and repeat offenders, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called Tuesday for renewed support for high-risk youth and for the state to overhaul the city’s prisoner reentry program.
DeStefano said at a press conference that these shootings — which resulted in one fatality — are the latest example of the consequences of releasing convicted criminals into the city without proper rehabilitation. The state needs to “adopt a real prison reentry program,” he said.
With two pistols and a sawed-off handgun recovered from the shootings laid out on display in front of his podium, DeStefano said at the press conference that citizens of New Haven should not “have to put up with this nonsense” — referring to the state’s frequent release of prisoners onto New Haven streets without effective rehabilitation.
“Our probation system is failing to take [released prisoners] off the streets,” DeStefano said. “They have no place to work, no place to live. … We cannot keep dumping people back out here.”
But no evidence has surfaced directly suggesting that the perpetrators were former inmates brought to New Haven.
Just after 10 p.m. Monday, Fredy Salinas, 27, died of a gunshot wound to the chest after trying to intervene in a robbery occurring at his neighbor’s house at 515 Ferry St. in Fair Haven.
And at around 9:30 p.m., three teenage males — a 14-year-old, a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old — were arrested on the corner of Elm and Orchard streets, less than seven blocks from campus, and charged with carrying a weapon. New Haven police arrived at the scene after receiving reports that the teenagers were loading handguns behind CVS pharmacy on Whalley Avenue. Police shot the 18-year-old in the ankle while he attempted to run from the scene.
The 14-year-old had a substantial criminal background, tracing back to when he was 11 years old, DeStefano said.
The third shooting occurred in Beaver Hills, where a 15-year-old male was shot in the foot by police on the corner of Jewel and Blake streets after officers responded to reports of teens handling guns. The 15-year-old was shot while fleeing the scene and reaching for a weapon, and was discovered half an hour later. A 17-year-old was also arrested at the scene with four pre-existing warrants for his arrest.
In January, DeStefano requested that the state of Connecticut provide funds for case-management support for released prisoners, as part of a pilot program.
Adam Ligeot, a spokesman for Governor M. Jodi Rell told the New Haven Register on Tuesday that Rell’s budget seeks to address these problems by increasing the number of corrections officers and probation officers, while creating a new warrant squad to more effectively track down parole violators. He also said her budget includes increased funding for services to help recently-released prisoners, including $100,000 for people who rotate between homelessness and prison.
“We have made great strides in strengthening the laws and policies that deal with violent crime and perpetrators in Connecticut,” Liegeot said. “That work will continue in the legislative session that has just begun.”
Because of flaws in existing prison re-entry programs, DeStefano said, there was a “certain predictability” to Monday night’s shootings.
He added that the state does not do enough to help released prisoners find jobs, since most employers refuse to hire ex-convicts.
DeStefano cited New Haven’s growing homeless population as evidence that prisoners released from the state’s prison system are not properly reintegrated into society.
Columbus House, the organization that manages New Haven homeless shelters, will open its fourth shelter on Wednesday night in order to accommodate the exceptionally high number of homeless individuals. The move to open a fourth shelter is unprecedented, Columbus House director Alison Cunningham said and is necessary in part because of former inmates who end up homeless after leaving prison.
“People are released without any plan,” she said.
DeStefano said the city will continue its efforts to combat youth violence, for example through its partnership with the Street Outreach Workers Program, an organization that targets and seeks to help at-risk youth around the city.
In response to Monday night’s shootings, Yale Police Department Lt. Ronnell Higgins offered no specifics as to how the YPD will continue working closely with the NHPD to support campaigns such as the elimination of gun violence on New Haven streets.