Connecticut plans to shut 2 prisons as population declines
The acting commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Correction told lawmakers Thursday that he plans to close two state prisons by the end of the fiscal year as the number of people behind bars continues to decline.
Angel Quiros made the comments at a legislative hearing on his permanent appointment to the job. A former correction officer who rose through the ranks, the Hartford native has served as acting commissioner since Rollin Cook resigned last June.
As of Thursday, there were 9,072 inmates in the 14 state-run prisons and jails. That is lowest level in more than three decades, a drop of about 5,000 inmates since the Enfield Correctional Institution became the last prison to close in 2018, and down about 3,300 inmates since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Quiros said.
In comparison, the state had 19,894 inmates in the system on Feb. 1, 2008, according to the department.
Officials say the decrease is due to several factors, including a drop in crime during the pandemic and the state’s efforts to find alternatives to incarceration, especially in recent months for eligible inmates at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Quiros said he anticipates announcing by mid-February which prisons will be shuttered.
The only facilities that are not being considered for closure are the three county jails — Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport — and the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, the state’s only prison for women, he said.
“I’m listening to just about everybody, from our unions to our front-line staff, from the elected officials, advocacy groups (to determine) which facilities should shut down,” Quiros said.
Leaders of the three unions representing correctional officers issued a joint statement Thursday opposing any closures.
“Front-line corrections staff are concerned that closing state prisons will prove to be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” they said. “Shoe-horning inmates into other facilities will undermine safety and security in the prisons, and create more difficult conditions for offenders and staff.”
Quiros said there may be other closures in the future. But he said he needs some flexibility in case there is an uptick in crime or a need to keep spacing out inmates if the pandemic drags on.
Quiros did not say whether there would be any job cuts to accompany the prison closures but acknowledged it will affect employees through transfers.
“Some may end up travelling further to their work site, some may end up on a different shift because of the facility they are going to, based on seniority,” he said.
The department has more than 6,000 employees. He said more than 1,000 workers, including more than 500 correction officers, will be eligible to retire in July. But he also expects about 120 to 150 new hires from a class of officers now being trained.