Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Sentencing Task Force received an earful Monday about how to improve Connecticut’s criminal justice system.
The task force, which was formed in response to the deadly home invasion in Cheshire last summer, heard testimony from victims, as well as, legislators, parole officers, and the governor herself.
It’s been reported that since Rell halted the release of violent offenders to parole the prison population has increased, but what hasn’t been talked about much is the workload of parole officers—tasked with making sure parolees are able to successfully transition back into the community.
Tonia McCown, a parole officer for 15-years, told the task force that while more scrutiny of parolees is fine, more officers will be needed to accomplish the task.
McCown said she has about 50 to 55 cases at the moment, but given the increased supervision—35 to 40 would be more realistic.
Corrections Department Commissioner Theresa Lantz said she would do the best she could to get more resources for parole officers.
Gov. Rell told the task force “The expedited hiring of more parole officers will allow offenders living in our communities to be more closely supervised, and assist the Department of Correction in identifying, locating and apprehending parole violators before they engage in additional criminal activity.”
In addition Rell said she has made sure temporary staff within the Board of Pardons and Parole is getting the sentencing transcripts it needs in order to determine an offenders release into the community. Robert Farr, chairman of the Board of Pardons and Parole, said more than 2,000 transcripts have been ordered.
Rell said while these measures are helpful she would like to see real substantive changes to the system. Some of the changes Rell recommended include, a full-time Board of Pardons and Paroles, strengthening of the penalties for residential burglary, increased use of monitoring by global positioning systems, and an upgraded technology system that allows the judicial branch, law enforcement, state prosecutors, and the Corrections Department to communicate with each other.
Rell also stressed that it is important the task force listen to victims of crime, like Kimberly Sundquist, president of Survivors of Homicide. Sundquist testified before Rell and questioned why no crime victims were asked to sit on the governor’s task force.
Tomorrow the Judiciary Committee will hold its public hearing on 15 proposals it drafted to help resolve these same problems within the criminal justice system. Rell said Monday that she hopes the task force and the Judiciary Committee work together to accomplish their goals.