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Senators Oppose Danbury Re-missioning

As discussed here, the BOP recently announced its intention to re-mission FCI Danbury from a women’s facility to a men’s low-security institution. The Hartford Courant reports that on Friday a group of senators from Connecticut (Blumenthal and Murphy), New York (Schumer and Gillibrand), Massachusetts (Warren and Markey), Vermont (Leahy and Sanders), New Hampshire (Shaheen), Maine (King) and Pennsylvania (Casey) wrote the Bureau of Prisons in an effort to prevent the move. According to the Courant, the senators contend that “the federal Corrections Institute at Danbury … is located along a densely populated urban corridor and a significant number of the inmates are from the surrounding states. Danbury is only 60 miles from Hartford, 70 miles from New York City, and 150 miles from Boston. It is easily accessible by public transportation, train, and car.” They add:

The transfer would dramatically disrupt the lives of these female inmates, many of whom are from the Northeast […] and place them out of reach of their families and loved ones.[…] We understand that the small percentage of women inmates in the federal system means that many women will be incarcerated very far from home. Given BOP’s commitment to maintaining family contact, the goal should be to have as many inmates as close as possible to their home[.]

Through its spokesman, the Bureau of Prisons responded that it has “an immediate need for low-security male bed space,” and that the closet federal prison for female low-security prisoners is in West Virginia (i.e., the Hazelton (WV) Secure Female Facility (SFF)). Reference to the need for low-security male bed space begs the question why the BOP did not simply open the Aliceville (AL) facility, where most of the Danbury women are reportedly headed, as a men’s low, especially since there is already a low-security female prison in the Southeast Region. Also, looking long term, the absence of any low-security female beds in the Northeast means that women from the region will invariably seek placement at SFF Hazelton to be as close to home as possible. This, in turn, will increase the likelihood that female offenders from the Mid-Atlantic (i.e., those closest to Hazelton) will be housed farther from home. In other words, closing FCI Danbury to women will have a lasting, ripple effect throughout the system.

All the circular reasoning in the world cannot hide the fact that Danbury’s re-missioning is a poorly conceived idea that directly harms female prisoners and their families, specifically their children. The Bureau should concede that its plan is a bad one, stop the announced transition and figure out another way to accommodate low-security male prisoners.

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