State preparing to close Montville prison
Inmate population has dropped, officials say
Gov. Ned Lamont announced Wednesday the state plans to close Radgowski Correctional Institution, a medium-security facility in Montville for men, by the end of this year — the second announced prison closure at a time when Connecticut’s inmate population has reached a 32-year low.
The announcement came with little fanfare in a late afternoon news release from the governor’s office, which pointed to “the significant drop” in the state’s incarcerated population, which decreased by more than 3,200 inmates in the last 17 months alone. The closure is estimated to save the state $7.3 million in annual operating costs
“Spending millions of dollars in annual operating costs on buildings that have historically low numbers of incarcerated individuals inside is just not a good use of resources,” Lamont said in a statement. “By relocating them to other facilities that have available capacity, we can deliver on our administration’s goal of reducing the cost structure of state government.”
The decision was met with criticism from the president of the state union representing corrections workers, who said while it may save money in short-term it will harm safety and security over the long term.
“The men and women who work in Connecticut's prisons have a very dangerous and difficult job to begin with. Closing facilities and moving offenders around while failing to hire additional staff is a recipe for failure,” Michael Vargo, president of AFSCME Local 1565, said in a statement.
The Republican leader in the House, who’s been critical of the governor for not being tough enough on crime, questioned the governor’s long-term criminal justice vision “particularly as we’re talking about issues surrounding our juvenile justice system and as we invest millions in federal pandemic aid into other correctional facilities.”
“Simply moving employees from one prison facility to another isn’t a point to celebrate, and it should instead trigger a broader conversation about the governor negotiating with unions to more accurately reflect on-the-ground staffing needs at our facilities,” state Rep. Vincent Candelora, of Branford, said in a statement.
The closure of Radgowski was not unexpected. The state budget includes the shuttering of three correctional facilities, which is estimated to yield $20 million in savings in fiscal year 2022 and nearly $46 million in fiscal year 2023.
The state shut down its maximum-security prison, Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, which once housed death row inmates, earlier this summer — three weeks ahead of the July 1 deadline set by the Lamont administration. Wednesday’s news release from the governor’s office said the closure of a third facility is pending.
Mirroring a statewide trend, Radgowski’s population has decreased from an all-time high of 734 in 2014 to 108 current inmates, according to numbers provided by the governor’s office. Currently, about 9,200 individuals are incarcerated in Connecticut prisons, down from the all-time high of 19,894 in February 2008.
“To me, it’s very symbolic of hope,” said 58-year-old Anderson Curtis of Hartford, a senior policy organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut.
Curtis was incarcerated at Radgowski for nine months from 2006 to 2007 for violating probation.
The ALCU and other advocates for prison reform have pushed for the savings to be redirected to community programs that help rehab the incarcerated.
“The big question is the reallocation of the funding,” Curtis said. “Will that go to programs and services to reverse the harm that was caused to the communities who were incarcerated?”
The remaining inmates at Radgowski will be transferred to other corrections facilities ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline with safety and security remaining “the primary consideration” of the Department of Correction when deciding where they will be
moved, the news release from the governor’s office says.
The 110 employees who work there, mainly correction officers, will also be relocated to other facilities, including the Corrigan Correctional Institution, a highsecurity prison that is located on the same compound as Radgowski. The governor’s office said there will be no layoffs as a result of the closure.