Erika M. Tindill, a former prosecutor, legal aid lawyer and the current executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, was named today as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s choice to chair the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Tindill, 41, was a state prosecutor in Florida specializing in domestic violence cases before coming to Connecticut a dozen years ago to eventually become the deputy director of New Haven Legal Assistance and, in early 2009, the director of the domestic-violence coalition.
“My priority as chair will be public safety,” Tindill said. “Under my watch, the board will use all available resources to make well informed, responsible and just decisions about pardons and offender re-engagement with the community.”
But Tindill is taking over leadership of an autonomous agency charged with balancing public safety against helping inmates make a successful re-entry into society. It is an entity that tends to stay out of the news until a parolee re-offends, as in the notorious case of the Cheshire home invasion and triple homicide. One parolee is convicted in the case; another is awaiting trial.
“We have to think about what is going to keep the community safe, what is going to help offenders not re-offend, not go back to prison,” she said. “That tension is always there. We’re not infallible. Mistakes will certainly be made, but the idea is to be proactive about getting the best information possible.”
In the Cheshire case, the board never received a transcript of a sentencing hearing that may have raised questions about the fitness of one defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, for parole.
Some experts say that Komisarjevsky never would have been released had parole officials seen the transcript, which discussed the defendant’s mental health and an alarming predilection for breaking into occupied homes. But they released him, despite a legal requirement that prosecutors provide transcripts before parole hearings.
Malloy said today that his administration pushed through an information-technology system meant to ensure that the board quickly receives complete case files on the prisoners who come before it seeking freedom. Work on the system began under the administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell in response to Cheshire.
“I think what I would say if I had been governor it would have moved much more rapidly, as it did as soon as I became governor,” Malloy said.
But Malloy, like Rell before him, is an advocate of community re-entry programs as a way to lower the prison population and the recidivism rate of offenders. Tindill said parole often is preferable to a prisoner completing a sentence and then returning the community without conditions or supervision.
“That doesn’t seem to a good decision in many cases,” she said.
Malloy said he chose Tindill for the breadth of her background.
“Erika has shown extraordinary leadership skills in her roles as an accomplished attorney, prosecutor, executive director and victim advocate,” Malloy said. “She is highly respected within the criminal justice community for her ability to advocate on behalf of victims and their rights, for her sharp knowledge and understanding of the criminal justice system, and for her dedication to improving the services that protect the public and their safety.”
She succeeds Robert Farr, a former Republican legislator named to the post by Rell. The chair of the pardons and parole board serves a term that coincides with the governor’s.
In Tindill, Malloy is choosing a lawyer who has been active at the State Capitol on domestic violence issues, serving on a task force named by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden.
One lawyer with criminal justice experience said Tindill speaks fluent Spanish and will bring extensive experience to the job as a prosecutor and victim’s advocate.