Attorney General: Honorable Theresa C. Lantz, Commissioner, Department of Correction, 2005-020 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

August 10, 2005

Honorable Theresa C. Lantz
Commissioner
Department of Correction
24 Wolcott Hill Road
Wethersfield, CT 06109

Dear Commissioner Lantz:

You have requested our advice on whether you have the authority to place offenders serving sentences of two years or less into halfway houses pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100c prior to completion of one-half of their sentences. You also seek our advice on whether you are prevented, by statute, from transferring offenders serving sentences greater than two years to a halfway house prior to completion of one-half of the sentence imposed.

According to the statutes governing community placement of prisoners, you do not have the authority to "release" prisoners serving sentences of two years or less to halfway houses prior to completion of one-half of their sentences, but you have the authority to "transfer," under appropriate supervision, offenders serving sentences of two years or less, as well as offenders serving sentences of more than two years, to halfway houses for the specific purpose of participating in work release and education release programs pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100 (e) prior to their completion of one-half of the sentence imposed.1 Such transferred prisoners must demonstrate their suitability to receive such privileges and they remain under your jurisdiction.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100c provides, inter alia, that an offender sentenced to two years or less must be confined for not less than one-half of the sentence to become eligible for work release or education release programs under the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100 (e) or any other community correctional program approved by the Commissioner of Correction. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100c states as follows:

A person convicted of a crime who is incarcerated on or after July 1, 1993, who received a definite sentence of two years or less, and who has been confined under such sentence for not less than one-half of the sentence imposed by the court, less such time as may have been earned under the provisions of section 18-7, 18-7a, 18-98a, 18-98b or 18-98d, may be released pursuant to subsection (e) of section 18-100 or to any other community correctional program approved by the Commissioner of Correction. (emphasis added)

The provisions of Section 18-100c governing the release of prisoners serving sentences of less than two years have been the subject of previous litigation, see Velez v. Commissioner of Correction, 250 Conn. 536 (1999), and an attorney general opinion. See Attorney General Opinion No. 99-010, letter to Commissioner Armstrong, September 17, 1999. Each of these authorities concluded that "in calculating the date of [an offender's] eligibility for community placement pursuant to Section 18-100c . . . they would have to serve one-half of their sentences before becoming eligible for community placement”. Velez, 250 Conn. at 552; Attorney General Opinion No. 99-010. Inmates serving sentences of less than two years may not, therefore, be released under Section 18-100c until they serve one-half of their sentences.

While Section 18-100c allows release of a prisoner to any community correctional program, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100 governs the "transfer" of inmates to halfway houses, group homes or mental health facilities specifically for work-release and education release programs. The subdivision of that statute pertinent to this opinion, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100 (e), specifically states:

If the Commissioner of Correction deems that the purposes of this section may thus be more effectively carried out, the commissioner may transfer any person from one correctional institution to another or to any public or private nonprofit halfway house, group home or mental health facility or after satisfactory participation in a residential program, to any approved community or private residence. Any inmate so transferred shall remain under the jurisdiction of said commissioner. (emphasis added)

The "transfer" of offenders allowed under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100 (e) must be solely for the purposes identified in Section 18-100 (a), e.g., work release and educational release programs.

Since the legislature used two different terms, "release" in Section 18-100c and "transfer" in Section 18-100 (e), to describe these offender placements, we must infer that it intended two different results. Celentano v. Oaks Condominium Association, 265 Conn. 579, 609 (2003). The different results are that Section 18-100c allows "releases" to any community programs approved by the Commissioner while "transfers" under Section 18-100 (e) to other correctional facilities or halfway houses may only be allowed for participation in work release or education release programs.

Additionally, with respect to your second question, we have found nothing in the general statutes which prohibits you, under the appropriate circumstances and with the appropriate supervision, from transferring, pursuant to Section 18-100 (e), an offender serving a sentence greater than two years prior to completion of one-half of the prisoner's sentence for the purpose of participating in work release and education release programs.

Thus, reading sections 18-100c and 18-100 (e) together, prisoners who received a definite sentence of two years or less may be released to a halfway house, group home, mental health facility, any approved community or private residence for work release or education release or any other community correctional program approved by the Commissioner of Correction after serving not less that one half of their sentences. Other prisoners who received sentences of two years or less or sentences of more than two years may be transferred to such facilities prior to serving one half of their sentences only if they are approved to participate in a work release or education release program and only if their conduct warrants the Commissioner granting such privileges.2 Such transferred prisoners remain under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner.

It is important to note, however, that Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-125a does not permit an offender sentenced to more than two years to be released on parole until one half of the sentence imposed has been completed. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-125a (a) provides, in part as follow:

A person convicted of one or more crimes who is incarcerated on or after October 1, 1990, who received a definite sentence or aggregate sentence of more than two years, and who has been confined under such sentence or sentences for not less than one-half of the aggregate sentence or one-half of the most recent sentence imposed by the court, whichever is greater, may be allowed to go at large on parole in the discretion of the panel of the Board of Pardons and Paroles for the institution in which the person is confined . . . .

For the foregoing reasons, it is our opinion that you do not have the authority to release offenders serving sentences of two years or less to halfway houses pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-100c prior to completion of one-half of their sentences. However, such offenders may be transferred to a halfway house under Section 18-100 (e) for work release or education release programs prior to completion of one-half of their sentences. In addition, we find no statutory prohibition barring you from transferring an offender serving a sentence greater than two years to a halfway house prior to serving one-half of the sentence imposed by the court for work release or education release programs. Finally, prisoners sentenced to more than two years may not be released on parole until one-half of the sentence imposed has been served.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL


1We note however that an offender serving a sentence greater than two years would not be eligible for parole release until he has served at least one half of the sentence imposed. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-125a.

2Conn. Gen. Stat. §18-100(d) states:

"The Commissioner of Correction shall establish regulations as he deems necessary for the administration of this section and section 18-101 and for the conduct of persons granted the privileges of this section; and he may suspend the privileges of any persons who violate such regulations or whose conduct he believes is unsuitable for the continuation of such privileges."

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL


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