On other pages, I have mentioned the importance of the Board of Pardons and Paroles members for your pardon application. This Board has sole control over who receives and who is denied pardons in the state of Connecticut. For this reason, if you are serious about your pardon application, you need to do more than recognize the Board of Pardons in Connecticut. Your pardon application will be best if you understand each individual member of the Board. You should try to align your application to their personal viewpoints, beliefs, and values. While this will not guarantee a successful pardon, it can improve your chances of having a pardon hearing. This is the first step in getting your pardon granted.
Here, I will discuss each of the Board of Pardon and Parole members individually. This will give you a good idea of each board member, which can make your pardon application stronger.
The Board of Pardons
The Board of Pardons consists of nine people. In the state of Connecticut, these people are currently:
- Rufaro Berry
- Joy Chance
- Stephen Dargan
- Carleton Giles
- Michael Pohl
- Carmen Sierra
- Kelly Smayda
- Nancy Turner
- Jennifer Zaccagnini
One of the steps in obtaining a pardon is having a meeting with the Board of Pardons. In this meeting, the Board will ask you questions and review your application.
Berry was appointed to the Board of Pardons and Paroles in October 2014. Governor Dannel Malloy appointed Berry as a full-time member of the Board of Pardons. She has remained a full time board member since. Her previous education and work experience give her a unique perspective on the pardon process. Berry went to school at Albertus Magnus College. She graduated in 2009 Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Business Management, Sociology, and Criminal Justice. She also worked for 15 years as a paralegal for the Bershtein, Bershtein, and Bershtein law firm in Hamden, Connecticut. Among her jobs with the law firm, Berry worked with clients and the firm’s partners on cases.
Despite the fact that she is new to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Berry is passionate about and dedicated to social justice. Her experience working for a private law firm helped her to interact with people who had been accused of crimes. This gives her a different perspective on the pardon applicants that she works with.
It is likely that as a full time member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Berry will have some interaction with your pardon application. For this reason, you should make sure that your pardon application and what you say during your pardon hearing will align with Berry’s passions and interests. While this will not guarantee that your application will be approved, it can improve your chances of getting a pardon approved.
Joy Chance has been a full-time member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles since October 2014. At this time, she got appointed to the Board by Governor Malloy. Chance went to Cambridge College, where she earned a Masters in Education and a minor degree in Psychology.
Chance began her career working in social services at the Open Hearth Association, located in Hartford, Connecticut. At this association, she worked as the Director of Employment, Education, and Training for parolees and staff members. During this time, she was in charge of supervising about 50 residents who were on probation and parole. She also supervised those who had pre-trial status, and those who were inmates of the Department of Corrections. After working with the Open Hearth Association, Chance spent over 16 years supervising and evaluating parolees to determine the right parole supervised program for each individual. Most recently, Chance worked with parolees as a therapist with Connection, Inc. Her counseling assisted parolees in their quest to remain in compliance with their parole orders. Chance worked with these parolees to maintain their parole status and the experience allowed Chance the opportunity to understand the unique problems facing current parolees.
Working with parolees in various jobs and contexts, Chance came to understand which parolees were truly remorseful for their pasts, as well as the needs of each parolee. These skills help Chance understand pardon applicants’ backgrounds as well as their desires to make positive changes in their lives, which helps her determine how genuine a candidate is in his or her application. Her extensive background with those convicted of crimes makes her a Board of Pardons member who understands the pardon applicant. Her desire to help these applicants change their lives is apparent in her career background. Your application can appeal to Chance if you can show the positive work that you did as a parolee and how you will continue this model behavior once your pardon is granted.
Mr. Dargan joined the Board of Pardons in 2017. Before that, he was a State Representative in West Haven from 1991-2017. He was also the House Chairman of the Public Safety and Security Committee. In addition, Mr. Dargan was the Fire Commissioner for West Haven from 1980-2004 and he also served as a member of the City Council in West Haven from 1985-1991.
Carleton Giles has been a full-time member of the Board of Pardons and Paroles since September 2013, when Governor Malloy appointed him. Six months later, in March 2014, Governor Malloy appointed Giles Chairperson of the Board. Giles joins the Board of Pardons and Paroles after 33 years of service as a Norwalk police officer. Giles worked for several years in Norwalk’s youth division investigating criminal activity against minors. Working with youth is a passion of Giles’. During his time as a police officer, he also participated in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program and he received certification as a school resource officer.
Giles is a certified police officer in the states of New York and Connecticut. His passion is working with youth and preventing juvenile crime through counseling and education. If you have done any community service helping the youth, you should include this in your pardon application. This work will surely get the attention of Giles. For example, be sure to highlight work such as:
- Speaking to schools or classrooms of at-risk children.
- Mentoring or tutoring children.
- Coaching a youth sports team.
- Counseling at-risk children.
- Participating in a religious program designed to help children.
Because child advocacy is an important topic for the Chairperson of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, it is a good idea to mention any positive work that you have done with children or teenagers. This can help your pardon application stand out in a positive way. For assistance filling out the pardon application and making sure that it is as good as it can be, you can contact my office.
Michael Pohl became a full time member of the Board of Pardons in 2019. Before that, he was an 8th grade teacher in Manchester from 2009-2019. Before working as a teacher, Mr. Pohl worked with the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (CADAC) starting in 1986. While working as a CADAC Commissioner, he learned more about addiction, treatment programs, and helping others. Mr. Pohl is himself a recovering alcoholic, and has served as the Executive Director of the Pathfinders Association, where he recovered from his addiction issues. Mr. Pohl has a profound interest in helping others recover from drug and alcohol issues and providing them with the fresh start that he himself received.
Carmen Sierra became a full time member of the Board of Pardons in 2016. She comes to the Board of Pardons with over 18 years of experience working with victims of Connecticut crimes, and has worked as a Victims Services Advocate for the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch’s Office of Victim Services. She is the first Victims Service Advocate to serve on the Board of Pardons.
Kelly Smayda was appointed in 2008 and has served on the board ever since. Before becoming a member of the board, Smayda worked within the Connecticut Department of Correction. She got promoted many times throughout her career. After 20 years working with this department, she became deputy warden. During her time working for the Connecticut Department of Correction, Smayda took on many different jobs and tasks. These jobs include:
- Overseeing treatment programs run by the institution for inmates.
- Approving inmates for community release programs. An example of this is working with inpatient treatment programs and halfway houses.
- Understanding and responding to inmate needs.
- Helping inmates handle the challenges that they face when they are released from custody.
Smayda’s work background helps her understand the challenges that inmates face. Her educational background in Psychology and Legal Studies mean that she has a good understanding of the challenges that current and past inmates face. She uses this knowledge to help pardon applicants turn their lives around. To relate to Smayda in your pardon application, you can discuss the challenges that you faced upon your release from custody. Talk about how you overcame these obstacles to better your circumstances.
Nancy Turner was appointed as a full time Board member in 2017. Before becoming a Board member, she worked at Advanced Behavioral Health, Inc. She also worked as the Director of Offender Risk Reduction for the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV). In addition to her work as Director, she chaired the Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee. Turner has also worked as a teacher and or the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Zaccagnini was appointed to the Board of Pardons as a part time member in 2008. She has served on the Board of Pardons and Paroles ever since. Before her involvement with the Board of Pardons, Zaccagnini worked to further her education and held many positions in the social services field. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University in Sociology, as well as a Master’s degree from the University of New Haven in Criminal Justice.
Upon graduation, Zaccagnini went to work with the Alternative Incarceration Center (AIC), located in Waterbury, Connecticut. She worked as a treatment social worker and a residential monitor for the AIC. During this time, she supervised 40 facility residents at various stages of the criminal process. Some residents were awaiting trial, while others were on parole or probation. This experience helped her to manage and help people as they navigated the criminal justice system.
After leaving the AIC, Zaccagnini went to work for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Torrington, Connecticut. She worked as a social work supervisor and an investigative social worker. Her role with DCF allowed her to help families stay together or reunite after time apart. Zaccagnini’s goal during her time with DCF was to do what was best for the children in Connecticut. As an investigative social worker, sometimes this meant removing children from abusive situations.
Zaccagnini’s resume and education indicate that she is committed to helping children and families, as well as assisting those who have been convicted of a crime to turn their lives around. For these reasons, it makes sense that Zaccagnini would want to help people start over by granting pardons. If you can prove that you have made positive steps in your life to change for the better, Zaccagnini will appreciate this. Positive volunteer work with children would also be viewed favorably by Zaccagnini.
What is the Board of Pardons Looking For?
Some of the factors that go into the Board of Pardons’ decision are:
- How many convictions you have. If you have only committed one offense, the Board of Pardons might be more willing to grant you a pardon, as you are just a one time offender and have clearly made an effort to turn your life around since your conviction.
- The amount of time that has passed since your last conviction. The more time that has passed without another charge or conviction, the better.
- Your eligibility. If you haven’t fulfilled all of the application or court requirements, you will not get a pardon.
- The reason for your application. Is there a specific need in your life that getting a pardon will fulfill? For example, is there a specific job that you can’t get because of your criminal history? Or is there some kind of program or activity that you will be barred from unless you get a pardon? Having a specific reason for the application can help your case.
- Your willingness to change since your conviction. Have you made a genuine effort to find a job, further your education, volunteer, help others, or make amends since your conviction? Or, have you violated parole and committed additional crimes since your first conviction? Do you have many people writing letters of recommendation and testifying to the positive changes in your life? Or, do you have flimsy recommendations and little support for a pardon? These factors will influence the Board’s decision.
- The opinion of your victim(s). If there were victims involved in your case, they will be given the opportunity to make a statement concerning your pardon application. The Board will take the victim(s)’s feelings into consideration before granting a pardon.
Discuss the Board of Pardons with a Connecticut Lawyer
The Board of Pardons in Connecticut will have a large impact on your application. It is important to prepare for your hearing with the Board and make sure that you establish a solid defense of your application. For help creating a strong case for your pardon application, you can contact a pardons lawyer.