Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles
ROBERT FARR, Chairman
Statutory authority - CGS Sec. 54-124a, 54-131k
Central office - 55 West Main Street, Suite 520,
Waterbury, CT 06702
Average number of employees - 72 full-time
The Board of Pardons and Paroles is within the Department of Correction for Administrative Purposes Only (CGS Sec. 4-38f)
Organizational structure - Chairman, Executive Director and Parole Managers Who Oversee the Pardons Unit, Parole Orientation and Hearings Unit, Parole Revocation and Rescission Unit, and Interstate Compact Unit.
The Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles is committed to protecting the public by making responsible decisions in determining when and under what circumstances eligible persons may be granted the benefit of a Pardon or the privilege of Parole.
Public Act 04-234 established the Board of Pardons and Paroles within the Department of Correction for administrative purposes only and as the successor to the former Board of Parole (established in 1968) and the former Board of Pardons (established in 1949).
The Board of Pardons and Paroles has the independent decision-making authority to (1) grant or deny parole, (2) establish conditions of parole or special parole supervision, (3) rescind or revoke parole or special parole, and (4) grant commutations of punishment or releases, conditioned or absolute, in the case of any person convicted of any offense against the state and commutations from the penalty of death. The Members of the Board are appointed exclusively to either pardon panels or parole release panels. The Chairperson may serve on both pardons panels and parole release panels.
Public Act 08-01 restructured the Board and provided that on or after July 1st 2007 the Board shall consist of eighteen members, six of whom, including the Chairman, shall be fulltime. The Governor shall appoint all members of the board with the advice and consent of both houses of the General Assembly. The five fulltime members plus seven part-time members shall serve exclusively on parole release panels, five of the part-time members shall serve exclusively on pardons panels and the chairperson may serve on both parole release panels and pardons panels. The Governor shall specify the member being appointed as chairperson, the full-time and part-time members being appointed to serve on parole release panels and the members being appointed to serve on pardons panels. The members of the Board shall be qualified by education, experience or training in the administration of community corrections, parole or pardons, criminal justice, criminology, the evaluation or supervision of offenders or the provision of mental health services to offenders. The Public act also mandated that no panel of the Board of Pardons and Paroles shall hold a hearing to determine the suitability for parole release of any person unless the chairperson of the Board has made reasonable efforts to determine the existence of and obtain all information deemed pertinent to the panel's decision and has certified that all such pertinent information determined to exist has been obtained or is unavailable. Lastly the Public Act repealed section 54-125b of the Connecticut General Statutes, effectively eliminating parole decisions being made through Administrative Review and therefore requiring all cases to appear before a full panel when determining suitability for parole.
In 2008/2009, the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles conducted over 6,000 reviews specifically for the purposes of granting a Pardon or Parole. Additionally, two Victim Services Coordinators are available for assisting those victims of crimes who choose to participate in the decision-making processes of the Board. Members of the public can contact the Board of Pardons and Paroles using a toll free number (1-800-303-2884) or by email email@example.com
· The Pardons Unit receives and reviews petitions for all forms of clemency, whether absolute or conditional, from both current and former offenders, as well as applications for Sentence Commutation. The Pardons Unit maintains a case file on all individuals who have applied for a pardon and acts as a liaison with the public for information inquiries and correspondence. Officers assigned to the Pardons Unit review all applications and prepare and distribute dockets as well as conduct investigations on each application, which include criminal record queries and interviews with witnesses and victims.
· The pardons process in Connecticut helps to remove barriers to employment for various applicants who are successful in being granted a pardon by the Pardons Board. The Board may grant a Provisional Pardon or a Full Pardon to an ex-offender. A Provisional Pardon specifically addresses the removal of barriers to employment but does not erase a person’s record. A Full Pardon, if granted, completely erases a person’s criminal record. All types of pardons may be issued with various conditions attached as specified by the Pardons Board. Being granted a pardon may lead to enhanced chances for employment in the pardoned person’s community, since the stigma of having a criminal record is removed, in the case of a Full Pardon and mitigated, in the case of being granted a Provisional Pardon.
· Being granted a pardon also enhances a person’s ability to become involved in getting a higher education, especially in cases where felony convictions are pardoned. In such cases, persons applying for student loans, who are granted pardons for felony convictions, are able to respond on the loan application document, that they have never been convicted of a felony/crime in Connecticut.
Parole Orientation and Hearings Unit:
· Connecticut General Statutes authorize the Board to release an inmate on parole if it appears “that there is a reasonable probability that the inmate will live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that such release is not incompatible with the welfare of society.” Any offender serving a total effective sentence of more than two years (with the exception of certain statutory and policy exclusions) is eligible for parole. Although there is no right to a parole hearing, the Board in accordance with statutory guidelines must grant a review at the 75 % mark of an offenders’ sentence if they are designated by the BOPP as a non-violent offender and the 85% mark an offenders’ sentence if they are designated by the BOPP as a violent offender. Parole Hearings were typically held six months prior to parole eligibility, however, the Board is working towards hearing offenders eighteen months in advance of their parole eligibility date.
The Parole Orientation Unit of the Board of Pardons & Paroles provides general information through its staff to newly sentenced parole eligible offenders regarding the laws and policies regarding parole release, calculation of time-served standards, general conditions of release, supervision practices, revocation and rescission policies, panel hearings. Orientation staff works with D.O.C. Assessment staff to develop an offender accountability plan. Once offenders are scheduled for parole hearings, Parole Officers assigned to various correctional institutions are the on-site representatives of the Board and are available to answer questions from DOC personnel and inmates regarding all aspects of the parole process.
The Parole Officers in the institutions interview all applicants and complete comprehensive summaries that provide Board Members with information regarding an applicant’s criminal, social and correctional history as well as details of their current offense(s). Parole Officers then present cases to a panel of the Board to determine suitability for parole release. If the offender is paroled, the summaries then form the basis of information upon which field Parole Officers develop case management, treatment and supervision plans.
Parole Revocation and Rescission Unit:
· The Interstate Compact Unit works in conjunction with the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, whose membership includes paroling authorities across the nation to guide the transfer of offenders in a manner that promotes effective supervision strategies consistent with public safety, offender accountability, and victim’s rights. It also provides for inmates to be paroled to other state, federal and immigration detainers.
· The Pardons Unit currently holds eight hearing sessions per year. Each hearing session is proceeded by a ‘pre-screening’ of all of the applications scheduled for that particular hearing. The pre-screen process allows the Board to more efficiently identify cases it would like to bring forward to the Full Hearing process. The Board is currently reviewing approximately 120 cases per pre-screen session. On average, about fifty percent of those reviewed at the pre-screen are eventually granted pardons.
· Since January 2009, the Board has been able to utilize a database program to help process the pardons applications which it receives. The utilization of the ‘Pardons Application Tracking System’ database has made it possible for Pardons staff to more efficiently process and track applicant information, distribute notification letters and other correspondence and pardon certificates in a far more orderly and efficient fashion than previously possible.
· There are now four Parole Officers working to process pardons applications a reduction from the previous five who were utilized to process applications in January 2009.
· The number of pardon applications has grown significantly. In the first seven months of 2009, the Board has received approximately 900 applications. If the Board continues to process applications at the rate of 120 per session, for a total of about 960 cases, the resulting clearance rate, at best, would leave a growing case backlog of approximately 840 cases per year.
· There is a plan to implement a new and more efficient Pardon Tracking Database (Pardons Tracking UAT). The application, which is web based, is currently under development and should be available for use in the near future. It is hoped that the new application once it comes online will lead to further application and data processing efficiencies.
· The Board has redesigned the format for all letters and certificates that are issued to applicants for pardons. In all cases, the redesigned documents are far more informative than the documents previously used. The redesigned documents have lead to reduced calls from persons asking for clarification of information given and also to a more efficient functioning among the Pardon Board’s staff.
Parole Orientation and Hearings Unit:
· The Parole Orientation Unit reviewed over 1000 parole eligible offenders at the Department of Corrections three main intake facilities from July 2008 thru January 2009. In January 2009, the Unit was redesigned and centralized for purposes of statewide intake and assessment. Officers assigned to this unit now initiate parole summaries for all eligible offenders, identify violent offenders for 85% designation, gather all statutorily mandated documentation, and complete a risk assessment. Since January 2009, the unit reviewed approximately 1452 cases with 461 cases being presented to the Board for designation as violent offenders. An informational brochure was also developed and is now presented to offenders during the orientation process and is also available on the Boards’ website.
Parole Hearings were conducted for approximately 3334 offenders during 2008-2009. These hearings were conducted by panels of the Board via video conference and at various correctional institutions. Effective 7/1/08, the Board is no longer able to conduct administrative reviews. All release decisions are now made at full panel (in person) hearings.
The certification process adopted in accordance with P.A. 08-1 remains in effect and has dramatically increased the amount of information available to Board Members at Parole Hearings.
Parole Revocation and Rescission Unit:
· The Revocation and Rescission unit is working to comply with the state regulation concerning the revocation and rescission process that was filed with the office of the Secretary of the State on April 5, 2007. The unit is responsible for all rescission actions state wide. This includes obtaining and reviewing evidence, processing and serving legal notice of rescission hearing to a parolee at the institution, and conducting the actual hearings when required. At present we have 2 Officers assigned to this task. In October, we put a policy in place which allows us to impose pre-approved sanctions for behaviors so long as they are discovered outside of the time frames, which would normally require a hearing. In some cases there is no action taken on minor infractions or on infractions which occur well in advance of an approved parole release date. In an effort to improve prison behavior, the parolee is notified that no action has been taken and also that continued misconduct could result in loss of parole. Following implementation of video conference parole suitability hearings throughout the state, 3 Hearing Examiners now conduct revocation and rescission hearings almost exclusively at the institutions. This avoids scheduling conflicts for video equipment which is in high demand. This also allows for flexibility with regard to the time frames established in the state regulation and provides the ability to immediately adjust to changes in prison population throughout the state.
Interstate Compact Unit:
· In response to the implementation of a web-based Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System (ICOTS), the Interstate Compact Unit has converted its active caseload to that system and now performs all Compact related functions on the web, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing overall operating expenses. The Deputy Compact Administer has conducted extensive training for all end users of this new system and continues to provide technical support to all effected parole staff. The Interstate Procedure Manual has been updated to reflect processing changes brought about by the new system. The Deputy Compact Administer continues to participate in the ICAOS Compliance Committee activities as an ex-officio member and is a regular attendee of quarterly ICAOS State Council meetings.
· Case Notes is an existing automated system that supports the consideration of offenders for parole as well as their supervision in the community. The Board of Pardons and Paroles and Department of Correction are in the process of upgrading their existing Case Notes system to allow electronic information sharing with Judicial and State / Local Law Enforcement. This enhancement will provide real-time access to parolee information, increasing public safety.
· The Case Notes system upgrade will allow greater efficiency by automating many of the manual tasks currently completed by staff.
· If the numbers of pardons applications continue into the foreseeable future at the current rate of almost 1800 per year, then the Board will have to increase the number of cases reviewed from the current 120 to about 220 per session. An alternative would be to add more hearings, but this alternative would almost surely require additional Board Members be added to the current six member Pardons Board (Five part-time + Chairman). The Chairman and has requested additional Board Members.
· The Board has come to see pardons as the true end of the ‘Criminal Justice Pipeline’. Many criminal justice theories point to the end of incarceration or criminal justice supervision (Probation or Parole) as the end of the convicted person’s obligation to justice authority. It has become evident that even though the legal obligation to the state ends upon discharge from all forms of incarceration, probation or parole, there is a lingering, and real, negative and significant impact, which results from any criminal conviction. The Board is considering the idea of having the pardons process treated as an extension of the reentry process, with tracking and engagement of willing discharged persons and ex-offenders. It is hoped that many of the current questions about what happens to persons once they discharge, often asked by the State Legislators, may be answered by implementing a pardons tracking and engagement system, as briefly described above. The Pardons Tracking UAT database may be an asset in this process.
Parole Orientation and Hearings Unit:
· The Parole Orientation Process continues to be expanded to allow for early identification and processing of offenders to be reviewed for Transfer Parole. The redesign of parole orientation into a centralized intake and assessment unit now ensures that the all required assessments are completed and documentation has been gathered to expand this process. In June 2009 the Board re-established the pilot program to identify low risk, non-violent offenders and scheduled these offenders for hearings up to 18 months in advance of parole eligibility instead of the current policy which calls for hearings to be held six months in advance of statutory eligibility. If and when granted parole, these offenders could be transferred to a halfway house or the community to begin supervision prior to their voted to parole date. The first hearing of this type took place in June and targeted female offenders.
Parole Revocation and Rescission Unit:
· The Board in conjunction with the Department of Correction is working on an upgrade to our electronic Case Notes system. Improvements to the system will make it easier to process parole revocations and rescissions.
The Board is working with the Department of Correction to establish a policy on incremental sanctions for parole violations to provide greater consistency with regard to parole revocations. A secondary benefit will be to standardize panel imposed conditions subsequent to a parole grant since panel members will know how cases will be managed in light of misconduct in the field.
Interstate Compact Unit:
· The Interstate Compact Unit will be working in an advisory capacity to the Case Notes Enhancement Project, an upgrade to the current system utilized to track Connecticut offenders on parole supervision. The intended result is a more fully integrated system that works in conjunction with ICOTS for tracking offenders transferring both to and from the State of Connecticut. Additionally, regular training and follow-up services will continue with end-users of the above mentioned Interstate Compact Offender Tracking System, as continued upgrading is a natural result of the implementation of any venture of this magnitude.
The Governor appoints members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Board Members are chosen to reflect the racial diversity of the state. Members are appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of either house of the General Assembly and their terms are also coterminous with that of the Governor.
The Chairman, Robert Farr, of West Hartford, serves as the Board’s Chief Administrative Officer. In addition to the Chairman, the Board of Pardons and Paroles is currently comprised of the following members:
Full-Time Parole Panel Members: Mr. Eric Crawford of Hartford, Mr. Robert Murphy of Madison, Mr. John O’Connor of West Haven, Mr. Louis Roy of Avon, Ms. Foye Smith of Hartford.
Part-Time Parole Panel Members: Mr. Remi Acosta of Waterbury, Mr. David May of East Hampton,
Ms. Pamela Richards of Ivoryton, Ms. Kelly Smayda of Ellington, Ms. Julia Wasserman of Sandy Hook, Ms. Jennifer Zaccagnini of Watertown, (and one vacant position).
Pardons Panel Members: Joseph Elder of Hartford; Joseph Milardo of Middletown, Robert Smith of Southington, Russell Palmer of Berlin; and Victoria Wills of West Hartford.