Daniel Zhao

Last Thursday morning, Carl Robert Talbot — a 30-year-old West Haven resident — was pronounced dead after he was restrained in the medical unit of the New Haven Correctional Center, according to a Department of Correction press release. A correctional lieutenant at the facility has since been placed on administrative leave, and the incident is now under investigation.

At 6:45 a.m., Talbot refused to leave the shower area of the correctional facility on Whalley Avenue, according to the press release. After several attempts to force Talbot to leave, staff members successfully restrained the inmate. Talbot then became unresponsive and staff alerted 911. That same morning, Talbot was pronounced dead at a local emergency room.

“The Connecticut Department of Correction is conducting an internal investigation into an incident where an offender was taken unresponsive to a local emergency room and later died,” the press release stated. “The Connecticut State Police were contacted and its Central District Major Crime Unit is investigating.”

On March 19, Talbot was arrested for a breach of peace — a criminal offense that occurs when an individual engages in disorderly public behavior, such as fighting — and was held in the New Haven Correctional Center for pretrial detention. Talbot had previously been charged with other nonviolent crimes, such as larceny and criminal trespass, according to the New Haven Independent.

“In doing police brutality and advocacy work for people who are incarcerated, I find that in a case like this, there is always negligence,” local activist Norman Clement said. “I don’t know how this person died but. … The state is responsible for keeping him safe and they failed horribly.”

Robert — or “Robby,” as his loved ones called him — struggled with mental illness since childhood and battled with substance issues throughout his adulthood. According to a GoFundMe page set up following his death to raise money for mental health advocacy, he spent many years in treatment. He was a talented musician and an activist for community issues, such as the Occupy New Haven movement in 2010.

Last Sunday, five Yale Divinity School students organized a vigil for Talbot outside the New Haven Correctional Center. According to Yale Undergraduate Prison Project President Claire Elliman ’20, attendees held candles and recited prayers in memory of Talbot.

Still, community organizers are awaiting further details upon the family’s request to hold off on protests surrounding the incident, according to Clement. Clement said the death reminded him of Sandra Bland, who was found dead in her jail cell in Waller County, Texas. The incident prompted significant advocacy efforts for inmate justice, and protests broke out across the country, demanding justice for inmates.

In an interview with the News, Unidad Latina organizer Catherine John raised concerns about the lack of available information regarding the altercation.

“Just like police brutality is so commonplace, so is abuse of prisoners,” John said.

Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 released his biennial budget proposal, which included significant cuts to the Department of Correction. Lamont’s plan to cut taxes relies on reducing the capacity of correctional facilities and redistributing staff to fill empty positions.

Alexandra Bauman | alexandra.bauman@yale.edu