A coalition of senators from the Northeast have asked the Federal Bureau of Prisons to halt a plan to transfer 1,115 female inmates from Danbury to Alabama.
The female inmates, housed in a low-security facility in Danbury, are scheduled to be moved this month because there is growing demand for space for male prisoners.
“These women clearly did something wrong in order to get to federal prison but their kids didn’t,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who signed the letter. “The best way to bring any inmate back into society is to make sure that while they are incarcerated they keep their connections with their families.”
The senators, led by Murphy and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, say the transfer to a remote prison facility in Aliceville, Ala., comes at too steep a price. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal also signed the letter.
“The transfer would dramatically disrupt the lives of these female inmates, many of whom are from the Northeast,” the senators wrote in a letter dated Aug. 2, “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,” the senators wrote in a letter to Charles E. Samuels, director of the Bureau of Prisons.
The letter, which asked for an immediate suspension of the proposed move, points out 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.”
“In contrast,” the letter said, “Aliceville is over 1000 miles away from each of these cities. It has no airport, train or other forms of long-distance public transportation. Cab rides from airports, as well as the need for overnight housing and the extensive travel time required to get to Aliceville, make visits impossible for many families.”
Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, said they had not seen the letter yet. But he said the inmate transfer had to be done because there is not enough space for low-security male inmates.
“We have an immediate need for low-security male bed space,” Burke said of the transfers, scheduled to begin later this month. He noted that some female inmates may end up closer to home after they switch prisons. And male inmates who are transferred to Danbury may end up closer to their families, he said.
Inmates can request to go to other federal facilities. The closest federal prison to Connecticut for low-security females is in West Virginia, he said.
In addition to Murphy, Blumenthal and Gillibrand, the letter was signed by Charles Schumer from New York, Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders from Vermont, Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire, Robert P. Casey from Pennsylvania, Angus King from Maine and Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey from Massachusetts.
There are 1,115 female inmates at the low-security prison in Danbury. There are another 217 women at a minimum security facility there. Only the low-security prison is changing its mission from female to male.
The letter points out that the federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice both “encourage inmates to stay connected with their families.”
“We understand that the small percentage of women inmates in the federal system means that many women will be incarcerated very far from home,” the senators said. “Given BOP’s commitment to maintaining family contact, the goal should be to have as many inmates as close as possible to their home. The Federal Corrections Institute at Danbury is uniquely well-situated to do just that.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services