Prison population at record low
Drop in state leads to closure of Enfield Correctional Institution
Connecticut’s prison population has fallen to 14,000 inmates — the lowest in 23 years.
Advancements in policing and prosecutions, combined with a years-long effort to divert teenagers and substance abusers from the general prison population, resulted in such sharp decreases in crime, the state is closing the 700-bed, medium-security prison in Enfield.
In particular, a drop in prison inmates under 30 years of age will mean an even lower prison census in coming years, at a savings of tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers.
Over the last 10 years, prison admissions have fallen 38 percent.
While civil libertarians warn the inmate population retains a troublesome racial disparity, Connecticut has become a national model in reducing crime and the need for prison cells.
“I never would have guessed that would have happened, politically, back 10 years ago,” said David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. “I’ve seen some real big shifts in the mind set on criminal justice in Connecticut. Increasingly, over the last four or five years, the Legislature and public, to a greater extent, have come away from being ‘tough on crime,’ to being smart on crime.”
$6.5 million savings
McGuire credits Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Second Chance Society measure raising the age teens are considered adults to 18, to making drug possession misdemeanors instead of mandatory felonies. The
measure General the while with Department budget,” Correctional dormitory-style opened save Other 2010 $42.6 “He’s The “We’ve school-to-prison a the are a million year making closures more closure in drastically state Assembly. saving McGuire was been 1962 in manageable of Institution, operating a about approved the of prison, year. as Correction dating able taxpayers building the a state said. minimum-security changed $6.5 to Enfield pipeline back create will safer, costs. by million a that the to efficiencies efforts and even “Violent, these keep safer,” facilities public that high-risk resources our will by Malloy safety neighborhoods closing and further inmates reallocating said. toward initiatives outdated enhance are original before. progress improving serving We sentences and lives are more in making and the of than process, their bettering real ever our the When prison communities.” the inmate Malloy closure population announced on Tuesday, stood it year fell ago, another at 14,103, there 100 were but inmates. by nearly Friday A 15,000 inmates The inmates. record in 2008. high was 19,894
that In teens January were 2010, considered the age years adults later, was raised it rose to to 18. 17. Two Malloy persuade has failed lawmakers in efforts to to raise the “When age even you higher. couple the forecast with the on fiscal population challenges counts facing the state of Connecticut, this closure is a responsible and appropriate decision,” said Scott Semple, commissioner of the state Department of Correction. “As we navigate through this process, the safety and secu- rity of all our institutions will remain a top priority — one which will not be compromised.”
Semple said the 190 DOC employees at Enfield CI will be redeployed throughout the agency. In the late 1990s, the DOC staff totaled 7,300, which is now down to about 5,200.
The transfer of inmates to other facilities has already begun, while a new class of 100 prison guards is scheduled to soon begin training.
Cops are doing a better job of community policing, said Michael P. Lawlor, a former prosecutor and state representative who is undersecretary for criminal justice in Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management.
Lawlor said there’s better technology, including video surveillance and DNA detection, and police and prosecutors are focusing on high-risk offenders, while diverting low-risk offenders to mental health and substance-abuse programs.
at behavioral “They’ve gotten modifications,” really good said Lawlor, adding since the state raised the age juveniles are treated as adults in the legal system, fewer young people are being incarcerated. Lawlor said nearly the entire inmate census reduction has been in the under-30 category. “Those used to be the population lowest D-Bridgeport, of law-writing initiatives led and we’ve over when the State “I to largest decline the think the General done to and agreed Rep. last incarcerate reduction in portion it’s dropping.” some and in Judiciary couple recent Steve no prison a Assembly’s vice now series secret hard of Stafstrom, chairman years years in and it’s the populations. Committee, crime of work that the not, has of charging instead to drugs a huge steer Stafstrom and rather to difference people of services misdemeanors violent felonies; than addicted said. crime and jail in working the “Recidivism making treatment has census,” to fallen there streets, outside we’re are getting cross many our illegal the borders. to coming state. a guns point But Still, in from where the we’re public dollars saving safety.” and taxpayers improving significant said reformers The the ACLU-CT’s next is to challenge address McGuire for one of the nation’s in Connecticut worst racial prisons. disparities, “We have to become more way data-driven,” to do that he is said. policing “The and prosecution. there is clearly The bias reality in policing is, in Connecticut. Prisons look nothing like the population of Connecticut.”
One of the guard houses at the Northern Correctional Institution in Enfield.