Shift in Plans for Danbury Prison Construction
By Jacqueline Stoughton
After facing much delay in the construction of the Danbury Federal Prison, which was set to become an all male prison, those involved agreed to create an additional facility to the camp that would bring transferred women inmates back to the Northeast.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced in November 2013 that Danbury’s main facility is to be converted into a male facility, but the BOP will now be building an additional facility classified as minimum security that would provide beds for women.
The decision to add a minimum-security facility for women accommodates concerns expressed in a letter to the BOP from Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and 11 other U.S. Senators in August 2013.
The original goal in mind for the new prison was to provide better accommodations for men, who like women suffer from overcrowded facilities. The side effect of the BOP’s original proposal was that this would have caused all women from the Northeast to be transferred to the federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama; more than 1,000 miles away from their families.
“This transfer would completely eliminate federal prison beds for women in the Northeastern United States and 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,” stated the Senators’ letter. “[G]iven the Bureau’s policies, the goal should be to have them as close as possible to protect against negative impact on inmates with small children. There are important concerns that should be properly addressed before any transfer is pursued.”
During construction of the new facility, the BOP has temporarily relocated women prisoners to jails in Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“Because [these jails] are not designed to house post-conviction prisoners, these jails unfortunately have limited programming and do not provide the Residential Drug Treatment Program, which helps prisoners deal with drug addiction and provides opportunities to shorten their time in prison,” said Laura Maloney, Press Secretary to Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
The new facility, which the BOP originally projected to be completed in May 2015, is now tentatively scheduled to be completed May 2016, due to delays related to funding and environmental assessment.
In May 2015, Attorney General Loretta Lynch attended her first congressional hearing where she answered many questions and concerns regarding the Danbury prison construction.
“I believe that they’re pricing materials being resolved this month [May], and I’m told by my team that construction should begin this summer,” said General Attorney Lynch at the congressional hearing. “I do not have an anticipated completion date for you and I regret to say that I’m hesitant to offer one, having seen several government construction projects in my day, but am told that construction should begin this summer on the new facility.”