This year, Richard Colangelo resigned from his position as Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney, amidst an investigation into his decision to hire a state budget official’s daughter while Colangelo was lobbying that official for raises for himself and other State’s Attorneys. Now, Connecticut’s Criminal Justice Commission is about to hire a new Chief State’s Attorney to fill the role.
On Thursday, May 12, the Criminal Justice Commission will interview three finalists for the job, all current or former prosecutors: Dawn Gallo (former Litchfield State’s Attorney), Patrick Griffin (current New Haven State’s Attorney), and Sharmese Walcott (current Hartford State’s Attorney). The Commission has also said it will choose one of those finalists for appointment during Thursday’s meeting.
Smart Justice will be there, and we’re asking all three finalists to first complete our survey about their views on incarceration and racism.
Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney has enormous power and influence within the criminal legal system and in the political process. They oversee a state agency with a budget in the tens of millions of dollars, but even more importantly, they set the tone for how other prosecutors behave.
A Chief State’s Attorney invested in creating truly safe and healthy communities, for instance, could pursue standard policies that decrease incarceration and racism. They could support creating meaningful ethics policies and external accountability measures, like data-driven performance evaluations for prosecutors. Or, a Chief State’s Attorney could double down on harmful practices that have created enormous geographic and racial disparities in Connecticut’s criminal legal system, and that have allowed our state to try to incarcerate its way out of problems that can’t be solved by prisons and policing.
Connecticut’s prosecutor system hasn’t changed much since the 1980s. Today, because of systemic racism, in every GA court in Connecticut, Black people are convicted more often than white people. People convicted of drug offenses are 2.4 times more likely to get prison sentences in some parts of Connecticut than in others. A Chief State’s Attorney committed to creating real justice and safety could change both of those facts, if they wanted.
Smart Justice has sent all three Chief State’s Attorney finalists a request to complete our survey regarding their views on decreasing incarceration and combatting systemic racism in the criminal legal system. A condition of public leadership is the ability and willingness to make your views clear to the people you are supposed to serve, and the Chief State’s Attorney should be no exception.
We’ve asked applicants to provide their full responses by Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
After that day, we will post the applicants’ responses on our website, so the public has the chance to learn more about their views before the public hearing on May 12.