Opinion: Correction Commissioner Takes Issue With Editorial
To The Editor:
As Interim Commissioner of the Department of Correction I feel compelled to respond to the Law Tribune's editorial, "What's Going On In Connecticut Prisons" (September 23), as I respectfully believe that it is somewhat inaccurate and based upon an inadequate understanding or misinformation concerning the underlying goals and mission of the agency.
Conditions of confinement and access to programs, which include education and religious services, are imperative contributing factors to our agency's mission. It is important to emphasize that the vast majority of the incarcerated population will be re-entering society at some time.
Unlike most state correctional systems, the Connecticut Department of Correction is unique in that it is referred to as a "consolidated system" that is tasked with managing both accused and sentenced populations. With this in mind, for the past several years, the agency has managed "high bond" offenders at a facility located in Suffield. In response to population trends, coupled with a reassessment of placement criteria at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, a determination was made to move the designated "high bond" unit from the Suffield location to Somers.
For purposes of clarification, it is important to emphasize that Northern CI is typically referred to as a "Super Max" facility, due to its construct and original purpose. In recent years, the Department of Correction, in mutual collaboration with various agencies and organizations, has enacted operational changes that affect the conditions of confinement and have improved efficiencies at that location. I view these changes as warranted and significant, and credit our staff for understanding the complexities of our goals while keeping paramount the best interest of the staff, offender and community interest.
The decision to move the "high bond" individuals 11 miles from Suffield to Somers is a population management issue that has arisen due to circumstances outside of this agency's control. Notwithstanding, wherever and whenever possible, accommodations are made to assure that the rights of pre-sentenced inmates to maintain access to their defense counsel and their family support network are facilitated. The agency has maintained open and ongoing dialogue and communications toward this end that includes regular input from the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association's Liaison Committee with DOC through the Committee's Chairman, attorney Brian J. Woolf.
With these facts in mind, realize that the creation of bed space that has resulted due to these changes is ideal for meeting the needs of a celled "high bond" population. Use of this option also serves to expose Northern Correctional Institution's staff to a general population environment typical to the rest of our system. This increased exposure has assisted in changing the culture of that facility by eliminating the stigma with which it had been labeled. Management of this population has provided our staff with a working knowledge of different methods of offender management which allow them to become more versatile employees with enhanced career options.
Additionally, the Department of Correction has every intention of ensuring that the "high bond" offender population is afforded the same or greater opportunities at the Somers location as they were afforded at the Suffield facility just 11 miles away.
With regard to the recent publication rejection of Mr. Lamb's book, staff followed current guidelines that have been in place for years. Since this publication rejection, I have reiterated the need for the Connecticut Department of Correction Publication Review Committee to ensure the inclusion of the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Correction's Policy & Standards Unit, as well as staff publication monitors at each correctional facility to review and recommend revisions to our current practice.
In closing, it was admirable that the editorial acknowledged Governor Malloy attending the Judy Dworin Performance at York Correctional Institution. Governor Malloy and his Administration have continuously expressed support and interest in all evidence-based practices that facilitate successful re-entry of offenders back into the community.