The Connecticut Department of Corrections closed a section of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center on April 5, a move that state officials are calling a sign of the state’s success in recent criminal justice reform efforts.
In December, the corrections center, which is one of the state’s largest, housed 1,474 inmates. Many of those inmates were then transferred out of a section formally known as the Annex, which held approximately 254 offenders and is now closed, DOC Public Information Officer Andrius Banevicius said. The eastern Connecticut facility now holds 1,233 prisoners, he said.
“The closing of infrastructure is a good indication that fewer people are returning to prison,” DOC Commissioner Scott Semple said in a statement last Wednesday. “The reduction in the offender population not only speaks to successful criminal justice reforms, but also represents the dedicated work of the men and women of the Department of Corrections.”
This is not the first time the 50-year-old Annex has closed: It was closed in 1991 but reopened in 1997. Banevicius said that while there are no plans to reopen the Annex at the moment, the section will still be maintained in case it is needed in the future.
Without the section open, the state expects to save an estimated $3 million in operating costs per year, according to the governor’s office.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, who announced the prison closing in an April 5 release, attributed the closing to dropping crime rates.
In 2008, Connecticut’s prison population hit an all-time high of slightly under 20,000. Since then, the number of imprisonments following arrests and sentencings have fallen, according to the announcement.
Between 2009 and 2017, the number of newly sentenced inmates entering DOC facilities in the first quarter of the year dropped by approximately 44 percent, according to the governor’s office. Similarly, the number of newly accused inmates entering DOC facilities fell by 25 percent in the same period.
The number of arrests in the state has also fallen, even within the past year. In the first quarter of 2016, just under 21,000 people were arrested. In the first quarter of 2017, that number fell to around 19,400. In 2009, the figure stood at about 28,400.
The FBI also reported last year that crime in Connecticut was at its lowest since 1967.
Although this particular closing of the Annex constitutes around a 17 percent drop in only one of the many Connecticut prisons, both Semple and the governor applauded it as a product of recent reforms.
Last September, Malloy announced at a conference outside the Hartford Correctional Center new efforts to change policies surrounding crime and punishment. Those efforts, he said, would take the shape of lowering maximum sentences and, ideally, sending fewer people to prisons.
One such effort was Malloy’s push for less severe sentencing protocols for some drug offenders. In 2015, he enacted policies to classify illegal drug possession as a class A misdemeanor, entailing a penalty of one year in prison, as opposed to the seven years that many offenders faced in years prior when possession was an unclassified felony.
“Across the nation, elected leaders from both sides of the aisle are recognizing that these kinds of reforms are working, and Connecticut is leading these efforts,” Malloy said in his Wednesday announcement. “Violent, high-risk inmates are serving more of their original sentences than ever before. We are making real progress and in the process, improving lives and bettering our communities.”
The Radgowski Annex was formerly the Montville Correctional Center.