One of the most horrific crimes in Connecticut history occurred in Cheshire in July, 2007. In the wake of that tragic and deadly home invasion which resulted in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, Hayley Petit and Michaela Petit, Governor M. Jodi Rell announced the formation and membership of the Governorís Sentencing and Parole Review Task Force (For a full list of Task Force Members see Task Force Members).
The Task Force, jointly chaired by Judge Thomas West, Lisa Holden and Attorney Mary Galvin, was charged with conducting a top-to-bottom review of the procedures and processes involved in arresting, charging, sentencing and releasing those convicted of crimes in Connecticut. The Governor requested that the Task Force identify entities and processes that needed to be changed and make recommendations to her to effect such change. She stressed that ensuring the safety of its citizens is state governmentís most important responsibility.
The Task Force took its charge to heart and systematically examined each component of the criminal justice system in Connecticut. It is important to note that although the creation of the Task Force was prompted by the Cheshire incident, the Task Forceís review was not limited to processes related to that incident, but encompassed all aspects of the criminal justice system.
Members heard detailed presentations on the following: risk assessment tools; the arrest process; prosecutorsí charging function; sentencing; re-entry, furloughs and transitional supervision; criminal behaviour and mental illness; actuarial instruments in risk assessments; criminal justice information technology systems; and, offender management plans (For a full list of presentations and the names of presenters see Task Force Meetings).
In addition, the Task Force held a public hearing on November 26, 2007 at which we received testimony from victims, ex-offenders, parole officers, correction officers, and many concerned citizens, as well as the Governor. At the public hearing, the Governor urged the Task Force to make recommendations that would enhance public safety, respect victimsí rights, treat offenders fairly and even-handedly and prepare them for re-entry to family and community life.
After the presentations were completed, the Task Force split into the following six subcommittees in order to draft final recommendations to present to the Governor: Board of Pardons and Paroles, Sentencing Statutes, Re-Entry, Victims, Information Technology and Special Populations.
Each subcommittee drafted recommendations that were presented to the Full Task Force. The recommendations adopted by the Task Force follow this introduction.
Board of Pardons and Paroles Subcommittee
This subcommittee considered changes to the structure, composition and procedures of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Information Technology Subcommittee
The subcommittee analyzed how the state can best plan for and implement a comprehensive integrated criminal justice information system that will allow agencies to collect, process and share information in an accurate and timely manner. They also examined the best way to address the ongoing needs of the legacy systems maintained by each agency so as to ensure that those systems are meeting the operational needs of the agency and are developed in a manner that provides for the sharing of information among agencies.
The subcommittee felt strongly that all current and future criminal justice information technology initiatives should be adequately funded and staffed. Projects should be developed and maintained in a manner that provides for blended staffing utilizing both consultants and state employees.
The subcommittee explored the possibility of developing a holistic, comprehensive, coordinated community-wide system to respond to and address the needs of all members of a community who have been impacted by crime and to help restore the communityís sense of health and well-being after a tragedy. They also examined adopting a fully-automated victim information and notification system.
Re-entry and Community Supervision Subcommittee
The subcommittee devised a comprehensive six-point reentry strategy that emphasizes appropriate assessment of offender risk and needs, offender accountability, program interventions, recidivism reduction, and most importantly - public safety. The subcommittee noted that research has established that targeted institutional programs and services can impact successful community reintegration and reduce recidivism. Research also supports that when community supervision combines manageable caseloads with evidenced-based treatment services, there are better case outcomes with greater reductions in recidivism and victimization. In addition, to maintain system integrity for those offenders who do recidivate and/or violate their community supervision conditions, the subcommittee concluded that probation and parole officers must have the ability to promptly locate and apprehend those offenders.
Special Populations Subcommittee
The subcommittee identified three groups of "special populations" on whom attention should be focused in the interest of reducing victimization and enhancing public safety, and for whom special program expansions and initiatives should be undertaken in order to increase public confidence in the workings of the criminal justice system. These three groups are: Sex Offenders, particularly the most dangerous predatory individuals; Convicted persons at the End of Sentence (EOS), discharging from the Department of Correction (DOC) without any form of supervision; and Probationers/Parolees/Diverted individuals with needs for special services to ensure community safety.
The subcommittee noted that collaborations among DOC, the Court Support Services Division of the Judicial Department (CSSD) and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) have been very effective in providing services to offenders to improve management in the community and reduce risk to the public. Continuing to reduce the risk to the community for these three groups of offenders will require increased capacity for effective services.
Sentencing Statutes Subcommittee
The Sentencing Statutes subcommittee considered changes to the penal code and criminal procedure that would enhance public safety by providing harsher penalties for those convicted of serious crimes and repeat offenders, as well as initiatives to create a diversionary program for people with psychiatric disabilities.