Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee

Connecticut Sheriffs System
Appendix A


History of Sheriffs in Connecticut


Sheriffs date back to the 1600s in Connecticut.  The Code of 1650 of the General Court of Connecticut allowed "the marshall" to collect fees for the service of executions and attachments and fines for breaches of law.  In 1698, marshals became "sheriffs."

In 1722, sheriffs were given the duty of conserving the peace and could command people to help them.  Two years later, each sheriff became responsible for the jail in his county, with the right to appoint people as "keepers."  In 1766, limits were placed on the number of deputies a high sheriff could appoint, although on special occasions other people could be used as well.

Until the early 1800s, sheriffs were appointed, jointly or solely by the governor and the General Assembly, depending on the year.  A constitutional amendment adopted in October 1838 established elections as the process for selecting high sheriffs.

The current role of the high sheriff has evolved from the abolition of county government in 1960.  The state took over jurisdiction of the jails, but sheriffs continued to operate the facilities under the direction of the state jail administrator.  In 1967, legislation changed the jails into community correctional centers under the Department of Correction.  The sheriffs no longer had around-the-clock responsibility for prisoners. [1]

In 1980, a three-member Sheriffs' Advisory Board was established with responsibility for administering a prisoner transportation and courthouse security system.  The board was not given any jurisdiction over deputy sheriffs who serve process, and the eight county high sheriffs continued as independently elected officials.

The same legislation created "court security officers" to operate the prisoner transportation and courthouse security system under the jurisdiction of the advisory board.  The high sheriffs were to appoint these workers from lists of people certified as qualified for the position by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).  Appointees had to meet qualifications specified in regulations adopted by DAS and successfully complete 80 hours of training.  No court security officer could also serve as a deputy sheriff.

Only about 30 court security officers were ever hired.  In 1984, the position was eliminated.  People employed on July 1, 1984, continued as appointees, but with the title "special deputy sheriff," which had no specified job requirements.

In 1989, the membership of the Sheriffs' Advisory Board was increased to five.  In 1991, the board was directed to establish minimum qualifications and testing procedures for courthouse security personnel, and in 1994, it was given responsibility for the establishment of training programs for deputy and special deputy sheriffs.

[1] In the 1990s, the high sheriffs for Hartford and New Haven counties each took over single, 24-hour lock-ups in their respective regions.  They continue to operate those sites today.

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