This month, Governor Ned Lamont announced that he would nominate Angel Quiros, most recently the interim Department of Correction (DOC) commissioner and previously a warden at Northern Correctional Institution, to become Connecticut’s next permanent DOC commissioner. By law, the legislature must vote on whether to approve the Governor’s nomination, and it’s likely the legislature will not vote on Quiros’s nomination until its regular legislative session, which begins in 2021. In the meantime, Lamont’s nomination means Quiros serves as DOC Commissioner Designate, which keeps him at the head of the DOC until the legislature’s decision.
Governor Lamont’s decision to appoint a new DOC commissioner without public hearings or feedback backtracked on the spirit of a campaign promise Lamont made in 2018, when he promised to hold a national search for his DOC commissioner within his first 100 days in office, to create a search committee that included formerly incarcerated criminal justice advocates, and to hold public hearings for community input in the state’s largest reentry zones. Lamont broke that promise during his appointment of the previous DOC commissioner.
Now that he is DOC Commissioner Designate, it is Quiros’s responsibility and opportunity to do what Governor Lamont has not: listen to and act upon the recommendations of justice-impacted people, who have had to survive incarceration and living with a record. Quiros, after all, is acting as the head of the DOC during a pandemic, and people need to know where he stands on issues facing incarcerated people now, not just in four months when the legislature is likely to consider his nomination. To that end, Smart Justice has sent Commissioner Designate Quiros a letter asking him to meet with us before October 31, 2020.
No matter who the next DOC Commissioner is, that person must commit to making our state stronger, safer, and healthier by embracing decarceration and racial justice policies. Our state has been in an era of decarceration for more than a decade, and now is the time for a DOC Commissioner to both double down on reducing incarceration and right the wrongs of the past by ensuring decarceration doesn’t leave Black and Latinx people behind. The next DOC Commissioner should commit to:
- Closing Northern Correctional Institution and Manson Youth Institution by, at latest, the end of 2021
- Reducing incarceration by an additional 50 percent
- Creating a plan to release people as part of a public health response to COVID-19
- Ensuring the most expansive visitation possible and advocate for free prison phone calls
- Support the creation of a pandemic time credit to increase eligibility for releases during COVID-19 and any future pandemics in the Connecticut DOC
- End all use of solitary confinement
- Expand rec time to at least 8 to 10 hours for people who are incarcerated
- Establish discretionary release plans that ensure Black and Latinx people get discretionary releases in proportion to their overrepresentation in DOC
- Support additional in-prison public hearings around incarcerated people’s needs, including around reentry and the collateral consequences of living with a record
- Support legislation guaranteeing housing for anyone being released at the end of sentence from a DOC facility or supervision. For instance, legislation requiring rent security deposit assistance and rental assistance for everyone being released from incarceration or supervision at end of sentence
- Adopt policies to ensure that people are not incarcerated for technical violations of probation/parole, such as being late to an appointment with a parole officer
- Support legislation to end discrimination on the basis of a criminal record in areas such as housing, employment, financial services and products, education, and other public accommodations
When the legislature considers Angel Quiros’s nomination to serve as DOC commissioner, it should ensure that he has committed to these and other policy positions that make our state better by reducing incarceration and addressing systemic racism in the criminal legal system.