Everyone has a role to play in ending mass incarceration, including Connecticut’s next Chief State’s Attorney. Like all prosecutors, the Chief State’s Attorney holds people’s lives in their hands. As the most powerful prosecutor in Connecticut, the Chief State’s Attorney has the power to align prosecutors’ budgets, policies, and lobbying to prioritize strong communities and racial justice instead of incarceration and the status quo – or not.
Right now, Connecticut is looking for its next Chief State’s Attorney. According to news reports, at least six people have applied for the job. Before Connecticut picks its next top prosecutor (a job that state law gives to the Criminal Justice Commission, which appoints prosecutors), it’s critical that the public has information about the applicants’ views on decarceration and racial justice.
So, in December, Smart Justice sent a survey to the six known applicants vying to become the next Chief State’s Attorney. We asked them to answer 17 questions about their views on important issues, from proposals they would have the power to endorse in the legislature, to procedures they could create for the Division of Criminal Justice, to budget policies they could enact. We asked them about their views on policies to hold police accountable, invest in community wellbeing instead of incarceration, end harsh sentences like mandatory minimums, require prosecutors to be transparent and accountable to the public, and more.
Five of the six applicants responded. Four – Richard Colangelo, Kevin Lawlor, Erik Lohr, and Maureen Platt – answered the survey questions. One – Joseph Harry – responded to us by refusing to complete the survey. Another – Michael Gailor – did not respond to our requests. We thank the applicants who completed the survey, because providing on-the-record answers to members of the public is a basic requirement of public leadership.
There were some glimmers of hope among applicants’ responses. For example, all four respondents’ answers suggested they would support increasing police accountability by assigning prosecutors to ensure every criminal charge is supported by probable cause before the charge is filed with the court, and to ensuring cases are dismissed when there is not enough evidence. In other positive signs, one applicant supports reining in police violence by tightening the legal standard for police to use deadly force, and one supports closing Northern Correctional Institution. But there were also some deeply disappointing answers. For example, refusing to answer or declining to answer the survey are themselves troubling signs, as they suggest unwillingness to engage with the people whom the next Chief State’s Attorney would be tasked with serving.
Today, the Criminal Justice Commission announced that it will be interviewing four applicants as finalists for the position: Colangelo, Lawlor, Lohr, and Platt.
The ACLU of Connecticut, including the Smart Justice campaign, doesn’t endorse or oppose applicants for the Chief State's Attorney position, and we aren’t endorsing any now. But we will be at those interviews, which are required by law to happen in public, to testify about the need for Connecticut’s next Chief State’s Attorney to vocally, actively, consistently support all of the decarceration policies outlined in our survey, and more.
We believe in educating people about the issues at stake in the selection of a new Chief State's Attorney. We believe that Connecticut should join the wave of states across the country with prosecutors who are pursuing real justice and public safety by seeking decarceration and the end of racism in the criminal legal system. And we are here to hold the next Chief State's Attorney – whoever that is – accountable for their role in ending mass incarceration.
Below, you’ll find copies of the complete survey responses from Chief State’s Attorney applicants.
or Richard Colangelo’s complete survey response: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/2020_-_acluct_smart_justice_-_chief_states_attorney_survey_richard_colangelo_responses.pdf
For Kevin Lawlor’s complete survey response: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/2020_-_acluct_smart_justice_-_chief_states_attorney_survey_kevin_lawlor_responses.pdf
For Erik Lohr’s complete survey response: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/2020_-_acluct_smart_justice_-_chief_states_attorney_survey_erik_lohr_responses.pdf
For Maureen Platt’s complete survey response: https://www.acluct.org/sites/default/files/2020_-_acluct_smart_justice_-_chief_states_attorney_survey_maureen_platt_responses.pdf