Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated a Cook County prosecutor Friday to become the state’s next victim advocate to replace Michelle Cruz.
Garvin Ambrose, 35, of Chicago will replace Cruz if he’s confirmed by the General Assembly.
Cruz, who was appointed by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, has had an adversarial relationship with the Malloy administration. She was a vocal critic of the risk reduction program endorsed by the administration as a way to reduce recidivism and prison sentences. Her term ended last April and she was not one of the top two finalists for the position.
The advisory panel forwarded five finalists to Malloy’s office for consideration. Malloy said Friday that Ambrose was the only candidate to receive the unanimous approval of the advisory panel.
The victim advocate position is split between advocating for crime victims and making policy recommendations to improve victims rights. It was the later part of the job that put Cruz in an adversarial position with the Malloy administration.
In September Cruz testified at a legislative hearing on the risk reduction credits and told lawmakers that “there are a lot of people who feel the way I do who won’t come forward and there’s a reason . . . I’m standing up against the administration, the very reason why the office is independent.”
Cruz told lawmakers that there were 250 victims in a single day to testify against the risk reduction program. She said “almost all of them felt betrayed.”
Asked if the victims advocate should at times oppose the administration, Malloy said every advocate needs to understand the independent nature of what they do and act accordingly.
“I think the advocate defines that for themselves,” Malloy said.
Malloy said he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the positions Cruz took or didn’t take on specific issues.
“Listen, I’m the proud governor of a state where crime has gone down two years in a row. Where arrests have gone down two years in a row,” Malloy said. “Where violent criminals routinely do 85 percent of their sentences. Where we’ve released fewer people from prison in the last year than were released in other years.”
Ambrose is currently Assistant State’s Attorney and Legislative Liaison in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. In this position, he has been responsible for working with government agencies, nonprofits, and victim advocacy groups to promote passage of a number of new state laws that aid in the protection of victims, including in the areas of child abuse, domestic violence, financial crimes, gun crimes, and human trafficking.
The state victims advocate plays a crucial role in helping victims navigate the criminal justice system, Malloy said.
Ambrose will move to Connecticut where he will be reunited with his wife, Toya, a cheerleading coach at the University of Connecticut.