OLR Research Report

March 23, 2005




By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney

Board of Pardons and Paroles

● Effective July 1, 2004, PA 04-234 combined the Board of Pardons and Board of Parole into the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The new board is part of the Department of Correction (DOC) for administrative purposes only.

● The board has independent decision-making authority to (1) grant or deny parole or special parole, (2) set parole and special parole supervision conditions, (3) rescind or revoke parole or special parole, and (4) grant releases and commute punishments including the death penalty.

● PA 04-234 ended the terms of members of the Parole Board on September 30, 2004 and starting October 1, 2004, the new board consisted of 13 members appointed by the governor with the consent of either house of the General Assembly. New members serve for the length of the governor's term.

● The board chairman is executive and administrative head of the board.

● The board chairman can sit on both pardons and parole release panels. He assigns seven members exclusively to parole release hearings and five to pardons hearings. Except for the chairman, no member assigned to one type of hearing can later be assigned to the other.

● The chairman or his designee and two members must conduct all parole hearings and approve or deny all parole release, revocation, or rescission recommendations from a board employee. Pardons panels consist of three members. The chairman must be on the panel for hearings on commutation of the death penalty and can be on other panels.

1. By law, the chairman must be qualified by education, experience, and training in administering community corrections, parole, or pardons. Describe your background and what qualifies you for this position?

2. What is your philosophy toward imprisonment, parole, and pardons?

3. The chairman must adopt policies for all areas of pardons and paroles, including granting pardons, commutations, or releases including commutations of the death penalty; risk-based structured decision making; and release criteria. Do you plan any changes?

4. What would you consider to be the most important factors when deciding whether or not to grant parole or a pardon. How much consideration should be given to the statements of a victim or a victim's family? When should an inmate be given the benefit of the doubt?

5. What influence does publicity or other pressures, such as prison overcrowding, have on decisions?

6. Are there any circumstances under which you would find it necessary to recuse or disqualify yourself from a parole or pardon decision?

7. PA 04-234 made a number of changes regarding parole.

a. The act made DOC responsible for supervising parolees. How has this change affected the board and the parole process?

b. The act requires the chairman, in consultation with the board's executive director, to adopt regulations for parole revocation and rescission hearings that include due process. What changes are planned?

c. The act requires a parole hearing to determine the suitability for parole release of inmates once they reach a specific point in their sentence beyond their parole eligibility date. The board must make certain findings and state specific reasons why the person and the public would not benefit from the person's parole while transitioning to the community if it requires continued confinement. How has this change affected the board's workload? What affect has this change had on parole decisions?

d. The act allows paroled inmates to move to alternate facilities within 18 months of their parole release date. It also authorizes compassionate parole release under certain circumstances. How have these changes been implemented?

e. The act requires the board, working with various other officials and agencies, to develop a parole orientation program, an incremental sanctions system for parole violations, and a plan to reduce by at least 20% the number of incarcerations due to technical violations of the conditions of parole. How do you feel about these initiatives and how have they been implemented? Do you think they will help parolees remain out of prison?

f. The act requires the board, Judicial Branch, DOC, and the departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Social Services, and Labor to develop a comprehensive reentry strategy. How has this been implemented? Do you think it will help parolees remain out of prison? Has it had any effect yet?

8. PA 04-234 made a number of changes regarding pardons.

a. The act required the chairman, in consultation with the executive director, to adopt regulations to establish an administrative pardons process that allows people convicted of certain crimes to receive a pardon without a hearing, unless a victim requests one. This applies in limited circumstances. What do you think of this process? How is it working? It applies to a limited class of people, should it apply to more or fewer people?

b. The act also required the board to issue a written statement when it rejects a pardons application. What do you think about this requirement?

9. The board can grant a pardon before any sentence is served. How long should someone serve before the board considers a pardon? Are there any cases in which a pardon should be granted before any portion of a sentence has been served?

10. Under what circumstances, if any, do you think the board should commute a death sentence? What factors might affect your decision?

11. A court challenge based on Michael Ross' death sentence but not brought by him, raised issues about the board's process to commute death sentences. Should the board consider commuting a death sentence even if the inmate does not apply for a commutation? Should others be allowed to apply on the inmate's behalf?

12. How do you predict a prisoner's potential for future dangerous behavior? Should this be part of a parole decision?

13. To what extent should the board impose conditions on a parolee's place of residence, employment, substance abuse treatment, or social activities?

14. How could a prisoner who is returned to prison for violating parole conditions prove to the panel that he will not break parole rules again?