Attorney General: Honorable Frank J. Kinney, New Haven County, 1998-019 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

October 2, 1998

Honorable Frank J. Kinney
High Sheriff
New Haven County
235 Church Street
New Haven, CT 06510

Dear Sheriff Kinney :

In a letter dated April 16, 1998, you requested our advice on the authority of the New Haven County Sheriffs Department to operate the Union Avenue Detention Center (New Haven lockup). Your request arose as a result of a report by the Auditors of Public Accounts which questions whether your continued operation of the New Haven lockup is in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. For the reasons explained below, it is our opinion that you have the authority pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32d to operate the New Haven lockup. You have advised us of the following brief history of the process by which the New Haven County Sheriffs Department began to operate the New Haven lockup. Prior to July 1, 1993, the New Haven lockup was operated by the Department of Correction pursuant to a lease agreement with the City of New Haven. On or about May 1993, the Department of Correction notified the City of New Haven that it would not renew its lease and that it would vacate the lockup effective June 30, 1993. Effective July 1, 1993, the General Assembly appropriated the sum of $598,000 to the county sheriffs for operation of the lockup. Special Act No. 93-38. Thereafter, the Chief Court Administrator designated the lockup as a courthouse lockup, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32b (3).

Following that designation, the City of New Haven entered into a lease agreement with the State of Connecticut, through the Sheriffs' Advisory Board, to permit the High Sheriff of New Haven County to operate the lockup. The term of the original lease agreement was for the period from July 1, 1993 through June 30, 1994. Funding for continued operation of the lockup has been appropriated by the General Assembly to the county sheriffs and the New Haven High Sheriff has been operating the lockup since the date of the original lease agreement in 1993. The fiscal notes from the Office of Fiscal Analysis show that in July 1994, funding was appropriated for continued operation of the lockup by the county sheriffs for the fiscal year 1994-95. The fiscal notes also show that funding was again allocated for the 1995-96 fiscal year specifically for the operation of the lockup. For the fiscal years 1996-97 and 1997-99 the funding was folded into the county sheriffs main budget.

Our opinion that you have the authority to operate the New Haven lockup is based upon the clear language of the statutes that describe the powers and duties of the Sheriffs' Advisory Board and the responsibility for transportation and custody of prisoners.

Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32a establishes a Sheriffs' Advisory Board "to administer a prisoner transportation and courthouse security system." The powers and duties of the Sheriffs' Advisory Board are set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32b, which provides, in part, as follows:

The Sheriffs' Advisory Board: (1) Shall cooperate with the Department of Administrative Services and other state agencies on behalf of the high sheriffs and the prisoner transportation and courthouse security system; (2) shall establish and administer a training program for deputy sheriffs and special deputy sheriffs; (3) shall establish operating procedures for the prisoner transportation and courthouse security system and direct its activities, as is required for efficient coordination among the high sheriffs; (4) shall receive appropriations for the high sheriffs and for the operation of the prisoner transportation and courthouse security system and allocate such appropriations among the high sheriffs, as required ...

Conn. Gen Stat.  6-32d allocates the responsibility for transportation and custody of prisoners. It provides in part as follows:

Except as otherwise agreed between the advisory board and the Department of Correction or other appropriate agency, the responsibility for transportation and custody of prisoners shall be assumed as follows:

(1) Each high sheriff shall be responsible for the transportation of male prisoners between courthouses within his county and : (A) Community correction centers, until sentencing; (B) other places of confinement after arraignment and until sentencing; and (C) the place of initial confinement, after sentencing . . .

(3) Each high sheriff shall be responsible for the custody of prisoners at courthouses within his county, except that the local police operating any lockup which is designated by the Chief Court Administrator as a courthouse lockup shall be responsible for the custody of prisoners within that lockup. In addition, if such designated lockup is not in the same building as the courthouse serviced by it, the local police operating such designated lockup shall be responsible for escorting prisoners from the lockup to the courthouse. The town in which such a designated lockup is located shall be reimbursed pursuant to section 7-135a.

It is a well settled principle that the objective of statutory construction is to give effect to the intended purpose of the legislature. State v. Delafose, 185 Conn. 517, 521, 441 A.2d 158 (1981). Where a statute is clear and unambiguous, there is no need to look further than the words used because the words are assumed to express the legislative intent. Office of Consumer Counsel v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 234 Conn. 624, 646, 662 A.2d 1251 (1995).

The language found in  6-32d "except as otherwise agreed" indicates an intent on the part of the legislature to permit the advisory board, the Department of Correction or other appropriate agency to agree among themselves as to the responsibilities for transportation and custody of prisoners. See e.g., Gifford v. Freedom of Information Commission, 227 Conn. 641, 653, 631 A.2d 252 (1993). This language, in essence, authorizes an allocation of responsibility for transportation and custody of prisoners which may be different from those provided for by the legislature in Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32d (1) through (4).

Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32d clearly authorizes the advisory board, the Department of Correction or other appropriate agency, to enter into an agreement which assigns the responsibility for transportation and custody of prisoners in a manner which is different from what is specified in the statute. Thus, you have the authority under Conn. Gen. Stat.  6-32d to enter into a lease agreement with the City of New Haven, in conjunction with the appropriate agencies, to operate the lockup which has been designated a courthouse lockup by the Chief Court Administrator.

We note moreover, that the legislature continued to appropriate funds for the operation of the lockup by the county sheriffs beyond the 1993-94 fiscal year. Implicit in that appropriation is a recognition by the legislature that you have the authority to operate the lockup. Ordinarily, an inference of legislative concurrence may be drawn from legislative silence concerning an agency's interpretation of a statute. See, e.g., Connecticut Light and Power Company v. Public Utilities Control Authority, 176 Conn. 191, 198, 405 A.2d 638 (1978). In the present case, the legislature has done more than remain silent. It has affirmatively provided the funding necessary for the continued operation of the lockup by the county sheriffs.

Accordingly, it is our opinion that you have the authority to operate the New Haven lockup.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Henri Alexandre
Assistant Attorney General

RB/HA


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