A new blueprint for Connecticut prosecutors, released Thursday by Chief State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin, aims to promote fairness and increase public confidence in the state’s criminal justice system through a set of goals developed by a diverse group of stakeholders.
Griffin released the report during a morning press conference held in his Rocky Hill offices. The document, called Moving Justice Forward, was developed over nearly a year with private funding from the Herbert & Nell Singer Foundation. Griffin said the report would provide state residents a transparent look at prosecutors’ policies and goals.
“For the first time, the people in the state of Connecticut can look at a document that’s over 217 pages, it covers everything from charging decisions on the front end to sentencing recommendations on the back end,” he said. “What I hope the people of the state of Connecticut take from that document is the complex nature of prosecutorial decisions.”
The project included input from parties including prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim’s rights advocates, judges, police, and people who spent time in the criminal justice system. Over 11 months, participants analyzed prosecutorial policies in the judicial districts of Hartford, New Britain, New London and Danbury.
It examined issues related to the initiation of cases, plea-bargaining, bail, attorney caseloads and training. Griffin said the blueprint was intended to help provide consistency between the state’s 13 judicial districts.
“We have heard, over the years, criticisms of individual offices and the Division of Criminal Justice as a whole that outcomes and policies and procedures look different in different jurisdictions,” he said, adding that his office had already begun implementing a division-wide set of standards released earlier this year.
The report sets other goals like improving community relations, increasing transparency, and recruiting a more diverse group of prosecutors.
The new blueprint received praise from Theron Pride, the managing director of national initiatives and research with the Center for Justice Innovation. Pride said members of the project did not shy away from difficult subjects and conversations as they developed the goals and policies.
“This is how good government looks, this is how it operates,” Pride said. “It takes the time to actually talk and engage with a variety of stakeholders who are impacted by the decisions that you make day in and day out and then takes stock of where can we make changes and where can we pivot.”
One of those stakeholders was Luis Mattei, a 39 year-old Waterbury native, who recently transitioned back into the community after spending years in prison for a crime he committed when he was 19.
Mattei, who was in the audience during Thursday’s press conference, told reporters that he offered commentary and pushback throughout the blueprint’s drafting process.
“My role was to really allow them to see from our experience, not just the process, but the feeling, the emotions we go through,” he said.
Although he felt the group heard his input, Mattei said he was waiting to see if the document’s goals were implemented.
“My question for them now is, okay, we have a report but is this just going to end up just a discussion with a report or are there actually going to be steps?” he said. “Now that the public has access to the report, we actually need to be reading it so that we can hold them accountable.”
During the press conference, Griffin said the goals outlined in the report were a mix of near and long term objectives to instill confidence in the state’s criminal justice system among members of the public.
“Every single day, our prosecutors stand up in courts around the state and they represent the people of the state of Connecticut. It is in their name that prosecutors bring a charge or drop a charge,” he said. “Because of that, we must recognize that we need to hear what the public at large thinks about us, constructive criticism, internalize that criticism, internalize those recommendations and to come up with what we have here, which is a blueprint.”