Connecticut’s Board of Pardons and Paroles (BOPP) has paused granting commutations following a public outcry over a sharp increase in those commutations in recent years.
The BOPP website was updated this week to say: “We are currently in the process of updating the commutation policy and will resume accepting applications and scheduling hearings within the next few months.”
“Our office is committed to continued bipartisan collaboration with stakeholders to ensure that the commutation process at the Board of Pardons and Paroles balances the importance of second chances for Connecticut prisoners, the perspectives of victims, and public safety considerations,” said Gov. Lamont in a statement.
“We continue to push for an open and transparent process where every victim, lawmaker, prosecutor, and defense attorney has input on how this commutations policy should be revised,” said Sen. Heather Somers (R-Groton) in a statement supporting the move. “We need to decide collectively what that policy is — what is fair, what is just, and what is right. Through engagement and through dialogue, we can make survivors’ voices heard and effect positive change.”
Somers has been one of the most vocal opponents of the policy change that caused the sharp increase in commutations over the last few years. That change was implemented by then-BPP chairman Carleton Giles, intended to offer second chances to more people in the state’s criminal justice system.
It resulted in the commutation of the sentences of more than 70 people in the last three years, including 44 inmates serving time on murder charges – previous years saw at most three commutations. Many of those 70 included inmates who had been convicted as teenagers. Some, which have become the center of arguments against the policy, commuted much longer sentences, shaving off decades.
Many in the public and in the state legislature have been vocally opposed to the policy change, believing commuting so many sentences, including violent crimes like murder, and doing so without consulting with lawmakers is a disservice to victims and their families.
Following the initial public outcry, Gov. Ned Lamont removed Giles as chairman of the BOPP, replacing him with Jennifer Medina Zaccagnini. Giles then faced a tough confirmation battle in the Senate, as lawmakers debated the merits of the policy. He was ultimately confirmed.