Sen. Kelly: “Stop commutations until the General Assembly can act on a policy that respects and protects victims and their families.”

April 11, 2023

Parole chairman replaced

Lamont removes Giles in wake of commutation controversy


Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday moved ahead of a state Senate confirmation vote to replace Carleton J. Giles as chairman of the Board of Pardons and Parole amid a controversy over a new commutation policy.

Giles has come under fire over the revised commutation policy adopted in June 2021 following a pause in commutations due to the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted a deluge of requests from state inmates and a wave of commutations.

The governor’s office announced Lamont is appointing Jennifer Medina Zaccagnini to chair the Board of Pardons and Parole shortly after Lamont confirmed his plans to replace Giles on Monday morning. He was questioned about Giles following a news conference on the state’s response to two federal court rulings Friday concerning the availability of medication abortions.

“I think that Mr. Giles has served ably for a long time, and, as you know, I am making a lot of changes,” Lamont told journalists.

At that time, he declined to identify any candidates, but stated he would select one of the 20 members of Board of Pardons and Paroles to replace Giles after consulting victims’ rights advocates, legislative leaders, members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and other stakeholders on the selection over the next two weeks.

Zaccagnini was first appointed to the independent state board in 2008. The Watertown resident began her career as a social worker for the Alternative Incarceration Center in Waterbury. She later worked as an investigative social worker and social work supervisor for the state Department of Children and Families in Torrington.

But Lamont also stated that he is not withdrawing his renomination of Giles to another term on the Board of Pardons and Pardon.

“He is free to remain on that board as long as he wants to,” the governor said.

GILES CONFIRMED MONDAY that he plans to continue serving on the Board of Pardons and Parole, and he offered his support for Zaccagnini in her new role as chairwoman.

In an interview, Giles also said he was not surprised by Lamont’s announcement. He said the governor has been gracious toward him and shown a lot of confidence in him across the years.

“I’m very grateful the governor has continued to express confidence in me. I think in one statement he gave he said I had a position on the board as long as I wanted it. And for that I’m very grateful,” Giles said.

Giles retired after 33 years as a Norwalk police officer. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Giles to the Board of Pardons and Parole in 2013 and named him chairman in 2014, and then Gov. Ned Lamont reappointed him in 2019 during his first year in office.

The Democrat-controlled Senate could take up the Giles resolution when it meets Wednesday. The governor said he is not asking the vote be put off.

“I don’t want any delay there,” Lamont said.

LAMONT WOULD NOT SAY that Giles overstepped concerning the revised commutation policy, but he reiterated his previous statement that commutations should be paused to give the legislature an opportunity to review the policy and possibly take some legislative action.

“I would say there were a lot of pardons in a short period of time. Maybe it is time to take a pause and let the legislature weigh in on what they think the rules of the road should be, and make sure the advocates on both sides are at the table so that we have a full discussion. We’ll have that within two weeks,” he said.

After Monday’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, once again called for a halt in commutations.

“The board must stop commutations until the General Assembly can act on a policy that respects and protects victims and their families,” he said.

Lamont said one of his reasons for seeking a new chairman is because the chairman decides the membership of a three-member subcommittee that makes recommendations on commutations.

LEGISLATORS CONTINUE TO DISAGREE whether the shift in commutation policy needed approval from the General Assembly, but Lamont said he has been advised that Giles acted within his statutory authority.

“The legislature said the chairperson has the right to set up what the rules of engagement are,” he said. “Now they have expressed some distress that maybe that the rules were changed. OK, then come to the table. If you want to change the rules, this is your opportunity to do so.”

The legislature will be meeting until June 7.

Under the revised commutation policy, inmates are eligible to apply if they have served 10 years or more in prison and are not within two years of parole eligibility. The policy sets out a dozen suitability guidelines for judging applications.

If an application is denied, the applicant must wait at least three years to reapply and also present new evidence that has come to light since the denial of the previous application.

Republican legislators have vocally opposed the change in policy, and some members of the Democratic majority have also raised objections.

House Republicans last week unanimously opposed the reappointments of two members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles who served on the three-member committee that reviews commutation applications. Eleven Democrats opposed one reappointment, and five Democrats opposed the second one, too.

“The change of leadership within the Board of Pardons and Paroles is welcome news but relegating the former chairman to a regular seat on the board doesn’t wash away how or why the egregious spike in sentence commutations occurred,” said House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R- North Branford.