Connecticut is looking for its next Chief State’s Attorney – the most powerful prosecutor in the state. While the Chief State’s Attorney has often actively opposed racial justice and decarceration efforts in the past, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Nationwide, people are reimagining prosecutors’ roles by choosing prosecutors who campaign on decarceration and racial justice platforms. From Florida to Massachusetts, some prosecutors have begun working toward justice by, for instance, pursuing accountability for police, not seeking convictions for things like marijuana possession, and rejecting cruel forms of punishment.

Connecticut should join the national wave of prosecutors who use their role to decarcerate and actively pursue racial justice. Everyone has a role to play in ending mass incarceration, and we cannot let prosecutors off the hook.

So, Smart Justice is calling on every person who is applying to become Connecticut’s next Chief State’s Attorney to complete our 17-question survey about their positions on mass incarceration and racial justice. If you’re applying to become Chief State’s Attorney, consider this a formal request: we want you to email us your responses to all 17 questions by December 31, 2019. If it comes to our attention that someone is applying to become the next Chief State’s Attorney, we will send them the survey. In 2020, we’ll publish the applicants’ responses that we receive on our website.

People should know if Chief State’s Attorney applicants are ready to vocally, actively pursue the policies, budget, and priorities that align for decarceration and racial justice. We want to know applicants’ positions, for instance, on issues like police accountability, prosecutorial accountability, closing prisons, eliminating mandatory minimums, investing in diversionary programs, rejecting testimony from unreliable police employees, and screening charges. We also want to know if applicants are committed to following and embracing Public Act No. 19-59, the new prosecutorial transparency law requiring data collection and public reporting requirements for Connecticut prosecutors.

Because Connecticut doesn’t elect prosecutors, the ways for people to learn about candidates for positions like Chief State’s Attorney are different – there are not candidacies or campaign platforms; there should be, under a new Connecticut law, public hearings with the chance for testimony from the public. This survey is one more way for we, the people, to see where the people applying to become the next Chief State’s Attorney stand.

The Chief State’s Attorney doesn’t have unlimited power, but there are many ways they can leverage the power they have to pursue justice and community well-being instead of incarceration and punishment.

If you’re applying to become Chief State’s Attorney, Smart Justice wants your responses to these 17 questions:

1. Will you commit to fairness and transparency by supporting legislation requiring uniform policies and procedures to be promulgated by the Division of Criminal Justice Advisory Board for all 13 state’s attorney offices? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

2. Will you commit to transparency and professional accountability for state’s attorneys by supporting legislation requiring biennial performance evaluations of all 13 state’s attorneys using data from PA No. 19-59 that focuses on creating fair, consistent, and proportional outcomes and measuring overall well-being of communities impacted by prosecution? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

3. Will you commit to transparency by complying with the data collection requirements of PA No. 19-59 and implementing a uniform case management system for the Division of Criminal Justice by the end of 2020? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

4. Will you commit to providing quarterly updates over the duration of 2020 regarding the implementation process of the case management system by reporting on (a) the number of courts fully equipped with the case management system, and (b) the percentage to completion each court has reached to fully tracking each data point required by PA No. 19-59? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the two subparts and any explanation.

5. Will you commit to legislation reducing the length of state’s attorney terms from eight years to four years? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

6. Will you commit to ending mass incarceration by supporting legislation overhauling the sentence modification process to (a) consider only the rehabilitation and character of a person while incarcerated, and victim input, (b) eliminate the possibility of a sentence increase, and (c) eliminate the requirement of initial agreement by state’s attorneys for a sentence modification application to be processed? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to all four subparts and any explanation.

7. Will you commit to ending mass incarceration by supporting legislation to modernize Connecticut’s criminal code by (a) eliminating duplicative criminal penalties, (b) eliminating mandatory minimums and sentence enhancements, (c) reducing the maximum penalty of incarceration on all offenses by 25%, and (d) capping all prison sentences to 20 years? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to all four subparts and any explanation.

8. Will you commit to fairness and accountability by supporting legislation creating an independent conviction integrity unit to review and investigate innocence claims presented by people convicted of violent offenses? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

9. Will you commit to saving taxpayer dollars by supporting the permanent closure of Connecticut’s supermax prison, Northern Correctional Institution? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

10. Will you commit to saving taxpayer dollars by supporting the permanent closure of Manson Youth Institution? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

11. Will you commit to transforming the role of the Division of Criminal Justice in ending mass incarceration by dedicating 50% of the division’s budget, by 2025, to community wellness programs that divert people out of the criminal legal system, such as rehabilitation programs or nonjudicial sanctions? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

12. Will you commit to holding police accountable by supporting legislation to change Connecticut’s use of force standard to one in which killings by police are justified only if it is clear that police did not, through their actions, create a situation in which deadly force was necessary? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

13. Will you commit to holding police accountable by supporting legislation requiring state’s attorneys to (a) update the Criminal Justice Commission quarterly on all open deadly force investigations, and (b) present their findings to the Criminal Justice Commission with an opportunity for public comment? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to both question subparts and any explanation.

14. Will you commit to holding police accountable by (a) creating a statewide “Brady List” of police officers excluded from testifying in criminal cases because of a proven history of lying or other professional or criminal misconduct, and (b) making the “Brady List” available to the public on request? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

15. Will you commit to holding police accountable by (a) assigning prosecutors in every judicial district to ensure that every charge is supported by probable cause before filing with the court, as required by Practice Book § 36-12, (b) ensuring cases are dismissed when insufficient evidence exists to support prosecution, and (c) refusing to prosecute cases involving police officers who have a proven record of false testimony, evidence tampering, or have otherwise proven unreliable in meeting ethical or professional standards? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

16. Will you commit to transparency and accountability by supporting legislation setting a uniform standard for criminal discovery which mandates (a) disclosure of all evidence to a defendant before they are required to accept or reject a plea offer, (b) disclosure of all evidence to the defense no later than 30 days before trial, (c) filing with the court an itemized list of information disclosed to the defense, and (d) mandating dismissal upon the defense’s request if the prosecution fails to provide required evidence within prescribed time period? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

17. Will you commit to transparency and accountability by supporting legislation codifying a Division of Criminal Justice code of ethics that meets or exceeds the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Standards for the Prosecution Function? Please give a clear “Yes” or “No” to the question and any explanation.

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