Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee

Connecticut Sheriffs System
Chapter I

Chapter One

Roles and Responsibilities


Although county governance no longer exists in Connecticut, under the state constitution sheriffs are still elected on the basis of county lines.  Appendix A contains a brief history of sheriffs in Connecticut; Appendix B contains a map with the boundaries of the counties and demographic information about each.

The eight elected sheriffs are responsible for the appointment of personnel and the performance of statutorily specified activities within their respective regions.  Several state entities also have roles in the operation of the sheriffs system.  They include the Office of the County Sheriffs, the Sheriffs' Advisory Board, the Judicial Department, the Department of Correction (DOC), and the Office of the Attorney General.  This chapter describes the roles and responsibilities of each.


In Connecticut, individuals elected under the state constitution are generally known as high sheriffs.  They serve four-year terms and take office on the first day of June after their election.

The constitution does not specify any duties or salary for the elected sheriffs.  Instead, all responsibilities of these and other types of sheriffs are enumerated in the statutes.  Many of their powers and duties are specified in Chapter 78, but other sections of the statutes also spell out responsibilities, particularly related to the execution of specific types of documents.  Appendix C lists more than 150 statutory sections that reference sheriffs.  However, the key functions of the sheriffs are:

·        receive process, execute it promptly, and make "true" return; [1]

·        pay money collected on behalf of a person to that person within 90 days or upon collection of $1,000 whichever occurs first;

·        transport male prisoners between courthouses in the county and community correction centers as well as other places of confinement;

·        transport adult female prisoners between courthouses in the county and community correction centers (but not Niantic correctional institution);

·        maintain custody of prisoners at courthouses within the county; and

·        "attend" the supreme, appellate, and superior courts.  

Each high sheriff is statutorily authorized to appoint a chief deputy sheriff, a specified number of deputy sheriffs, and an unlimited number of special deputy sheriffs.  A brief description of the duties of each is presented below.

Deputy sheriffs.  Also known as "paper sheriffs," deputy sheriffs have the same powers as a high sheriff with respect to serving legal process.  Each appointee is responsible for his or her own performance, but the high sheriff may become involved if a complaint is made about work that was (or was not) done.  With few exceptions, deputy sheriffs are limited to working within the boundaries of the county of the high sheriff who appointed them.

The major types of work performed by deputy sheriffs are service of process, executions against wages, bank accounts, and property, and the collection of delinquent taxes.  Service of process includes writs, summonses, subpoenas, evictions, and capias (writs that require taking a person into custody).  Deputies receive most of their work directly from law firms, governmental entities, and individuals who need papers served.

            The duties of deputy sheriffs require them to divide their time between office activities and work on the road.  A considerable amount of record keeping is involved, both before and after a document is served.  A number of deputy sheriffs have offices with answering machines, computers, facsimile machines, and photocopiers.  Some deputies in the larger counties also employ secretarial help.

Chief deputy sheriff.  In each county, the high sheriff selects one deputy sheriff to serve as chief deputy.  This person is statutorily authorized to exercise all of the powers and duties of the high sheriff in his or her absence.

Text Box: TABLE I-1.  Courthouse Statistics.
County	Locations	Courtrooms
Fairfield	10 sites in 4 towns	57
Hartford	13 sites in 6 towns	66
Litchfield	3 sites in 2 towns	5
Middlesex	3 sites in 1 town	19
New Haven	11 sites in 5 towns	72
New London	5 sites in 3 towns	17
Tolland	3 sites in 1 town	9
Windham	4 sites in 3 towns	8
Sources of data: Judicial Department and Office of the County Sheriffs.

Special deputy sheriffs.  The individuals who perform courthouse security and prisoner transportation functions are called special deputy sheriffs.  The number of people actually performing the job of special deputy sheriff in each county depends on the amount of state funding allocated to the county.  This figure is based on the level of court activity. Table I-1 summarizes the number of courthouse locations and courtrooms by county.  (Appendix B contains more detailed information about court cases in each county.)

Special deputy sheriffs assigned to prisoner transportation are responsible for moving prisoners between locations safely, securely, and with the proper paperwork.  They use vans, carryalls, and automobiles.

In FY 99, sheriffs transported 173,397 prisoners and traveled 867,510 miles.  Table I-2 presents county specific data related to prisoner transportation.

Text Box: TABLE I-2.  Prisoner Transportation Data.
County	Miles	Prisoners	Vehicles
Fairfield	140,311	40,962	7
Hartford	163,440	36,487	11
Litchfield	81,519	3,041	4
Middlesex	52,296	5,640	3
New Haven	178,421	62,633	8
New London	121,884	16,515	6
Tolland	49,890	4,321	3
Windham	79,749	3,798	4
Total	867,510	173,397	46
Source of data: Office of the County Sheriffs.

Special deputies working in cell blocks are responsible for verifying prisoners are not carrying weapons or other unauthorized items, bringing the correct people up to the courtroom, and ensuring prisoners are properly restrained to prevent injury or escape.  They also keep track of the location of the prisoners appearing at the courthouse throughout the day.  In most counties, transport staff work in the cell block area when they are not on the road transporting prisoners.

Special deputies assigned to courtroom security perform a wide variety of functions during a single day.  Those assigned to a specific courtroom announce the start and close of the session, maintain order in the courtroom while proceedings are underway, guard prisoners to prevent escape or violence, and, if jurors are present, escort them to and from the courtroom.  These personnel may also monitor hallways, stairwells, and parking areas.  Special deputies assigned to metal detectors must assess the level of risk each person passing through the detector represents and be able to recognize and safely confiscate camouflaged weapons as well as everyday objects that could be used as weapons.

Conditions of holding office.  Each high sheriff must execute a $10,000 bond payable to the state, conditioned on faithful discharge of the duties of the office.  High sheriffs and deputy sheriffs collecting tax warrants for the state or a municipality must execute a $100,000 bond.  In addition, sheriffs must carry personal liability insurance for damages caused during the performance of their official duties -- $100,000 for damages to one person and $300,000 to more than one person.

            The state constitution (Article Fourth, Sec. 25) specifies sheriffs "shall be removable by the general assembly."  If a sheriff dies, resigns, or is removed from office by the General Assembly, the governor may fill the vacancy until such time as the General Assembly fills it.  

            Under C.G.S. Sec. 6-36, the General Assembly must remove from office any high sheriff who: "(1) knowingly demands or receives illegal fees for serving process, (2) illegally detains any money collected by him or (3) refuses to satisfy an execution issued against him."  C.G.S. Sec. 6-46 requires the Superior Court in the county where the high sheriff holds office "on the information of the state's attorney," to remove from office any high sheriff who "demands or receives any compensation from any deputy."  Such person is disqualified from ever holding the office of high sheriff again.  

            Compensation.  Each high sheriff receives an annual salary for the performance of all duties required by law, except service of civil process.  There are two statutorily specified salary levels, depending on the size of the county.  High sheriffs are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day.  The state pays the sheriffs a pro rated portion of their annual salary every two weeks.  They also receive health insurance benefits and participate in the state retirement system like other state employees.  In addition, the state provides each high sheriff with an automobile.

            Each chief deputy sheriff receives a statutory salary and the same health and retirement benefits as the high sheriff.  Chief deputies are also eligible to receive per diems for court security duties on the days they are present at a courthouse.  They also can earn service of process fees.  

            Table I-3 lists the current statutory salaries of the high sheriffs and chief deputy sheriffs.  These rates have been in effect since 1987.  

                  TABLE I-3.  Salaries of the High Sheriffs and Chief Deputy Sheriffs.


High Sheriff

Chief Deputy Sheriff

Fairfield, Hartford, New Haven, and New London


$11,000 +

$100 per diem for each day worked at courthouse

Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland, and Windham


$10,500  +

$100 per diem for each day worked at courthouse

NOTE:    All of these individuals are also statutorily eligible to earn service of process fees.

Source of data:  C.G.S. Sections 6-33 and 6-40.

Deputy sheriffs are paid on a fee basis for the work they do.  These fees are specified in statute and vary with the function involved.  In many cases, the fee is a specified amount.  However, in situations involving the recovery of assets, the fee is usually a percentage of the amount recovered.  Service of process work, executions, and the collection of delinquent taxes by a high sheriff or chief deputy sheriff are paid at the same rate as that paid to any deputy sheriff.  (See Table A in Appendix C for a detailed list of the statutory fees.)

High sheriffs and chief deputy sheriffs are required to file an "Annual Statement of Income" with the State Ethics Commission by May 1 of each year for the previous calendar year.  The report details their income as a sheriff by type of work (e.g., court attendance, service of process, tax collections, etc.).

Text Box: TABLE I-4. Pay For Special Deputy Sheriffs.
Task	Per Diem Rate
Base rate	$110
Metal detector court officer	$115
Cell block officer	$120
Transportation court officer	$130
Supervisory court officer	$140
Second or third shift at overnight jail facility	additional $5 shift fee
Source of data: C.G.S. Sec. 6-41.

Special deputy sheriffs receive a per diem payment for each day they work, based on statutorily specified rates.  The amount ranges from $110 to $140 per day, depending on the task performed.  Table I-4 lists the rates for each task.

Special deputy sheriffs are covered by social security and the state retirement system, can purchase health insurance through payroll deductions (but with no state contribution), and may participate in the dependant care program.  Recently those who work a regular schedule equivalent to full-time hours have been deemed eligible to receive holidays and personal leave days.  Special deputies are not eligible for paid vacation or sick days.

Sheriffs' Advisory Board

Under C.G.S. Sec. 6-32a, the Sheriffs' Advisory Board is responsible for administering "a prisoner transportation and courthouse security system."  Although the board was created in 1980, most of its present duties were added during the 1990s.  The board is currently required to:  

·        establish minimum qualifications for courthouse security personnel and develop a standardized test for applicants;

·        establish training programs for deputy and special deputy sheriffs;

·        establish operating procedures for the transportation and courthouse security system;

·        maintain records of all prisoner transportation movements;

·        develop a reference manual for deputy sheriffs; and

·        receive and allocate appropriations for operation of the transportation and courthouse security system.  

The board, which is assigned to the Office of the Comptroller for administrative purposes only, has five-members.  The chairman and vice-chairman are high sheriffs, selected by the eight high sheriffs in a manner they choose.  The other members are the commissioner of correction, the chief court administrator, and the comptroller.  Each member must designate an alternate.

There are no specified meeting requirements for the Sheriffs' Advisory Board.  The number of meetings per year has varied since the creation of the board.  In the early 1980s, the board usually met two to five times per year.  From 1990 through 1993, the board only met a total of six times.  During the past few years, the board has met approximately every two months.  Based on the minutes from the 1998 and 1999 meetings, the most common topics discussed during that period were training-related issues, budget and staffing levels, and activities related to recommendations made by the state auditors.

Although there was only one meeting during the past two years when the board did not have a quorum, attendance at the 11 meetings was mixed.  Both high sheriffs attended all but one meeting.  The official Department of Correction representative was at all but two meetings, while the Judicial Department representative attended two-thirds of the meetings.  The official designee of the comptroller was at five of the 11 meetings.  Other high sheriffs, chief deputy sheriffs, and employees of the entities represented on the board also attended meetings.

Office of the County Sheriffs.  The entity that handles day-to-day administrative tasks for the sheriffs system, including payroll, purchasing, and training coordination for the prisoner transportation and courthouse security system is called the Office of the County Sheriffs.  It has no statutory basis and is not directly attached to any other state agency.  However, the nine employees in the central office serve as the staff to the Sheriffs’ Advisory Board.  Another eight employees are assigned to the individual counties, generally one per county.  They work under the supervision of the high sheriff in that county.  All of the individuals employed by the Office of the County Sheriffs are General Fund employees in state classified service.

Council of High Sheriffs.  Another entity involved in the sheriffs system is the Council of High Sheriffs.  This informal group, established in 1997, is composed of the eight high sheriffs.  (Chief deputy sheriffs and special deputies who supervise court operations may also attend meetings.)  The council meets monthly, and it is the entity currently establishing statewide operational policies for use by all of the high sheriffs.

Although the council currently has no by-laws, most policies are established by mutual agreement.  If consensus cannot be reached, decisions are based on majority rule.  Personnel from the Office of the County Sheriffs central office provide staff support to the council.

Judicial Department

Under the current system, responsibility for court security is divided between the Judicial Department and the sheriffs.  Under C.G.S. Sec. 51-9, the chief court administrator of the Judicial Department is responsible for supervising the care and control of all property where the department is the primary occupant.  The sheriffs provide personnel to perform security tasks.

Judicial Department employees are involved in decisions about the location, design, and remodeling of buildings as well as the maintenance, cleaning, and security of courthouse facilities.  The department pays for equipment and structural changes to improve the security of the courthouses from its budget.

In 1988, the Judicial Department established a task force to review its security needs.  One result was development of a security manual, completed in June 1989 and updated in 1995.

Each of the 13 judicial districts has a security committee.  Each committee includes the administrative judge  for the district, the trial court administrator for the district, supervisors from the various units located within the courthouses in the district (such as the state's attorney's office, the public defender's office, the clerk's office, and the maintenance unit), a representative of the high sheriff's office, a lawyer from the area, and a representative from the nearest state police troop. The committees meet as needed to discuss security issues in their respective districts.

On an ongoing basis, presiding judges may discuss courtroom staffing needs with the sheriff's office.  The security manual contains suggested minimum staffing levels for special deputy sheriffs.  However, the actual number of special deputy sheriffs assigned to a specific location is determined by the high sheriff based on court activity and the funding available for staff countywide.

The Judicial Department also has a Statewide Security Committee.  There are seven members: a judge, the chief state's attorney, the chief public defender, the director of administrative services for the court, the director of court operations, the director of court facilities, and the high sheriff who is chairperson of the Sheriffs' Advisory Board.  The group meets three times a year to discuss security issues of statewide concern.

Department of Correction

The commissioner of correction is one of the three original members of the Sheriffs' Advisory Board.  Sheriffs interact regularly with the Department of Correction because most pre-trial prisoners are held at DOC centers while awaiting trial.  In addition, sentenced offenders are turned over to the custody of the department to serve their sentence.

Most people transported by special deputy sheriffs are picked up at and/or returned to Department of Correction facilities.  The locations of facilities used by DOC to house pre-trial prisoners within a particular county and the specific procedures used to transfer custody of prisoners between the sheriffs and DOC personnel affect the workload of the sheriffs system.  Special deputy sheriffs also work with correctional officers when they bring incarcerated prisoners directly to courthouses for appearances.

Office of the Comptroller

The role of the Office of the Comptroller is limited with respect to the operations of the sheriffs.  The Sheriffs' Advisory Board was placed under the comptroller for administrative purposes in 1989.  Since then, there has been little contact between staff in the comptroller's office and staff for the county sheriffs, although the comptroller is a member of the Sheriffs' advisory board.

Office of the Attorney General

The Office of the Attorney General has contact with the sheriffs system in two ways.  In a role similar to that provided to other state agencies, the office may represent the sheriffs in various legal proceedings.  C.G.S. Sec. 3-125 specifically requires the attorney general to appear for the high sheriffs and chief deputy sheriffs in certain civil matters.  The office also may need to use sheriffs for service of process work.

Department of Administrative Services

The primary interaction between the sheriffs system and the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) involves the testing process for special deputy sheriffs.  DAS gives the exam, scores the answers, and reports the results to the applicants and the sheriffs.

[1] Service of process is a method of formally commencing a lawsuit by giving notice of the action to the defendant.  A copy of  the notice is given to the defendant.  The original and a statement attesting to the time and manner in which the copy was delivered is filed with the court.

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