Prison pop­u­la­tion at record low

Drop in state leads to clo­sure of En­field Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Dixon

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.

Data-driven

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.”

Carol Kaliff / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

One of the guard houses at the North­ern Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion in En­field.

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