It’s official. The BOP’s announced re-missioning of Danbury has turned into a soap opera.
In July, the BOP announced that FCI Danbury would be converted from a women’s Low to a men’s Low. Once Congress got wind of the news, a coalition of Senators voiced strong opposition to the plan, leading the BOP to halt the move. Late last week, the BOP announced it was resuming the transition. Now word comes that things are on hold again.
From the AP via the Wall Street Journal: “The partial government shutdown has delayed plans to begin moving inmates out of the federal women’s prison in Danbury as part of an effort to turn the facility into a minimum-security prison for men, according to Connecticut’s U.S. senators. The Department of Justice informed their offices that the implementation of the transfers has been postponed, both senators said. A dozen inmates had already been transferred before Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.”
In an editorial, the Hartford Courant observes: “About 15 years ago, Connecticut sent hundreds of state prison inmates to a prison in rural Virginia. That was a disaster. It doesn’t auger well for this federal experiment.” Indeed, it is next to impossible to find anyone saying that the BOP’s announced plans are good for female prisoners from the Northeast or their families. Senator Chris Murphy’s comments to the media (via Rick Green at the Hartford Courant and MSNBC) suggest it may well be a case of a federal agency doing as it pleases, criticism, common sense and compassion be damned:
“It says something about how strong the Bureau of Prisons feels about this move that they are willing to go forward with it even in the face of a list of criticisms from some pretty influential senators,” Murphy said.
“You have 20 prisons all across the country. How can you justify not having one of them in the most densely populated region,” Murphy added, pointing that there will not be a low security female prison in the Northeast if the transfer goes through.
Both Murphy and U.S. Sen Richard Blumenthal say they will push for an oversight hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee’s chairman, is part of the group demanding a halt to the transfers.
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“The Bureau of Prisons has been pretty hardheaded about this issue[.…] They clearly want to proceed with this transfer, and I’m not sure that they’re going to listen to anything short of a statutory change,” meaning a law through Congress to keep Danbury as is. With the current budget impasse and Congressional standoff, that’s not going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, the women of Danbury wait.