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DOC Commissioner Rollin Cook and Gov. Lamont speak with members of the T.R.U.E. Unit. ANDRIUS BANEVICIUS / CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION

Department of Correction Commissioner Rollin Cook has resigned from his post effective July 1, citing family obligations in Utah.

Cook announced his resignation in a heartfelt internal memo Friday.

“Although I had planned and hoped for a longer tenure serving as Commissioner, I have submitted my resignation to Governor (Ned) Lamont,” Cook said. “Like all of you, my family is most important to me and this is really my opportunity to return to all of them.”

Cook’s father unexpectedly passed away this past December, he wrote in the memo, and his family has remained in Utah.

“My wife, kids and my mom were all there when everything shutdown,” he said. “I could not and would not leave my responsibilities here knowing our organization would be facing its most challenging event in decades, so we weathered the storm apart.”

Cook said he understood his challenging circumstances are “one story in the millions of stories faced by everyone through COVID-19, and I do not share it with you in an attempt for you to feel sorry or bad for me… My intent is to only let you know I leave because my family needs me and I need them.”

Cook arrived in Connecticut early in Lamont’s tenure with glowing references from Scott Semple, his predecessor, and the former governor’s criminal justice adviser, Michael P. Lawlor. Both had praised Cook as a reformer in his previous position as the top prison official in Utah.

“Commissioner Cook has been a reliable, steady hand at our Department of Correction since I came into office, and I am grateful for his service and leadership,” Lamont said. “He helped guide our prison system through a challenging and unprecedented time during this pandemic, and I can’t thank him enough for all of the work and thoughtfulness he has brought to the position.”

Cook leaves amid an international pandemic and days after the state reached an agreement with the ACLU of Connecticut over a lawsuit filed to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19. Under his tutelage, the department’s incarcerated population fell by 2,2o0 people due to a combination of a sharp decline in arrests and admissions to correctional facilities, and an increase in the number of discretionary releases that allowed people to get out of prison before the end of their sentence.

Lamont has appointed Angel Quiros, the DOC’s deputy commissioner of operations and rehabilitative services, to serve as acting commissioner while he conducts a national search to permanently fill the position.

Kelan is a Report For America Corps Member who covers the intersection of mental health and criminal justice for CT Mirror. Before joining CT Mirror, Kelan was a staff writer for City Weekly, an alt weekly in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a courts reporter for The Bryan-College Station Eagle, in Texas. He is originally from Philadelphia.

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