Correction Ombuds Office (COO)
In 2022, Connecticut passed a law creating a two-part independent prison oversight structure, consisting of the Correction Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Correction Ombuds Office (COO). The CAC is a citizen and expert panel that will provide advice, collect public input, and recommend candidates to head the COO. The COO, discussed in detail below, will have a professional staff to investigate corrections-related complaints.
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State Prison Profile
Connecticut has 12 state prison facilities subject to COO oversight and incarcerates approximately 9,500 people in state prisons. The state prison system is run by the Connecticut Department of Correction (CTDOC).
Correction Ombuds Office
- Structure: COO is an independent office housed within the Office of Government Accountability. COO is headed by the Correction Ombuds, who is appointed by the Governor from a list created by the CAC. The Ombuds serves an initial two-year term, which continues until successor is appointed, and can be successively reappointed.
- Authorized Activities: COO is charged with: evaluating CTDOC provision of services and whether CTDOC policies conflict with the rights of incarcerated people; receiving concerns about CTDOC actions, policies, or procedures from incarcerated people; conducting site visits and reviewing the operations of correctional facilities; and recommending policy and procedure changes. Broadly, COO’s mandate also includes using all available means, including public education and legislative advocacy – and if other remedies are exhausted, legal action – to promote the rights of incarcerated people.
- Facility and Information Access: COO is generally granted the right to inspect and copy and records needed to carry out its duties. Facility access is not mentioned in COO’s empowering statute.
Correction Advisory Committee
- Structure: The CAC consists of 11 members, who are variously appointed by authority figures in the state House and Senate and the Governor. In total, two of the CAC’s members must be directly impacted; one must have expertise in the legal rights of people who are incarcerated; two must have experience promoting the rights or welfare of people who are incarcerated; one each with experience providing mental health and health care to people who are incarcerated; two with corrections expertise; one with experience in medication in correctional settings; and one victims’ rights advocate. Appointing authorities must allow a public hearing on nominees before confirmation. Members serve four-year terms.
- Authorized Activities: The CAC is responsible for submitting a list of candidates for the Correction Ombuds role to the Governor; the Governor must choose a candidate from this list. The CAC is also responsible for reviewing COO actions, meeting at least quarterly to advise the COO, and holding semiannual public meetings on the COO’s work.
- Facility and Information Access: Facility and information access for the CAC are not mentioned in its empowering statute.
The CAC and COO were established in 2022 through provisions of new criminal justice legislation regulating the use of solitary confinement in Connecticut (Public Act 22-18). Shortly after Public Act 22-18 was passed, lawmakers passed another bill (Public Act 22-114) adding two additional CAC members to be appointed by Republican leaders on the Judiciary Committee.