History of The Connecticut Department of Correction
Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dignity, Excellence
The Connecticut Department of Correction was established by the General Assembly as of July 1, 1968 when the State Jail Administration, statutorily separate institutions and parole and related functions were established into a cabinet level agency headed by a commissioner who is appointed by the Governor. The first commissioner, Ellis C. MacDougall, charted the new agency's course when he said that it would make, "…an important contribution to criminal justice in the State of Connecticut." This consolidation resulted in what today is one of only six state correctional agencies in the country with a combined system of pre-trial jails for accused offenders and prisons for sentenced inmates.
With the Department's creation, the state became the first in the nation to bring all youth and adult correctional institutions and parole functions under one central authority and resource base. The new agency was comprised of 12 facilities; the State Prison in Somers, Osborn Farm in Enfield, State Farm and Prison for Women in Niantic, State Reformatory in Cheshire, Youth Farm in Portland and state jails in Bridgeport, Brooklyn, Haddam, Hartford, Litchfield, Montville and New Haven.
With an initial budget of $13,698,999, the agency administered 3,145 male and female offenders in its facilities. In contrast, fiscal year 2006-2007 saw the agency administering a budget of more than $600-million and incarcerating more than 19,000 offenders with another 4,500 under supervision in the community and a workforce of some 7,000 men and women.
The origin of a correctional system in Connecticut began with the Old Newgate Prison in East Granby. It initially operated as a copper mine, opening in 1705. When that didn't prove profitable the colony of Connecticut began to use the tunnels as a prison. It was used to house inmates during the Revolutionary War and in 1790 became the state prison. Old Newgate served as the state's prison for men until 1827 when the new state prison was opened in Wethersfield.
The Wethersfield Prison stood on land bordering the town's cove, adjacent to the current Department of Motor Vehicles. It served the state as the maximum-security facility for males until 1963 at which time a new state prison was opened in Somers. Wethersfield shared its place in the Connecticut prison system with what was then called the Osborn Prison Farm, a massive expanse of rural acreage in Enfield; with the Niantic Prison for Women which was opened in the early 1900's and with the Cheshire Reformatory which was built with inmate labor in 1910.
At the end of the 1970's the agency's inmate population had grown by some 25-percent over the course of just two years. Contributing to this was the decision of the state legislature to establish definite sentences and eliminate parole for crimes committed after July 1981.
In 1981 the state established the Task Force on Jail and Prison Overcrowding and the agency searched for additional space in closed or abandoned state buildings. Also during this time period, a federal court placed a cap on the populations at the Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven jails. The legislature passed the Community Residence Act, which permitted offenders to serve as little as 10 percent of their sentence. In 1984, Public Act 84-505 created an emergency release mechanism and an advisory commission to recommend prison capacities.
The late 1980's and early 1990's saw a massive increase in prison construction of approximately $1-billion to meet the requirements of the growing offender population. In all 12 new prisons were built with renovations to 13 others, which increased bed capacity by 50%. These projects included the new section of Brooklyn 1991, MacDougall-Walker 1992-1993, Northern 1995, Willard-Cybulski 1990-1993, Corrigan-Radgowski 1991-1994, Garner 1992, Webster 1990, York 1994. The last major construction project undertaken was five new housing units at MacDougall, which opened in 2003.
By the end of the 1980's the decade had seen the incarcerated population double, the staffing level triple and the agency budget quadruple.
Throughout its history, the Department of Correction has emphasized the importance of offering educational opportunities to the inmate population as a means of supporting their reintegration and reducing recidivism. In 1968 a comprehensive adult basic education program was launched. As early as 1971, under the leadership of Commissioner John Manson (1971-1983), the agency became the second in the country to organize the educational system into a unified school district, designated by the state as Unified School District #1. Annually it confers 600-900 GED completion certificates, more than any other educational organization in the state as well as offering instruction in nearly three dozen vocational areas.
The agency has also stressed substance abuse treatment since its inception. Currently, more than 85 percent of incoming offenders report a history of substance abuse. In 1970, a treatment division was formed to respond to drug addiction and criminal involvement. Today, substance abuse counselors administer a substance abuse treatment Tier Program. The four level program ranges from Tier One, basic substance abuse education to Tier Four, which is an intensive, six-month, in patient, therapeutic community. A study by Brown and Brandeis Universities found that involvement in the Tier program reduced recidivism and reduced the severity of any future crimes that might be committed.
Overall, the agency offers a spectrum of programmatic opportunities for offenders including anger management, parenting, religious services, and a correctional enterprises program, which provides offenders work experience in a real world environment.
The resurgence of violent street gangs in Connecticut in the early 1990's carried over into the population of the state's prisons. A period of riots, murders, assaults and other major incidents occurred in part as a result of the gang activity. In response the Department created a unique and progressive gang management program that severely curtailed their influence within correctional facilities. The program continues to be a model for correctional agencies around the world. While this initiative was undertaken during the administration of Commissioner Larry Meachum (1987-1995), it greatly contributed to the Back to Basics philosophy that stabilized the correctional system from the mid to late 1990's under Commissioner John Armstrong (1995-2003).
The appointment of Commissioner Theresa C. Lantz (2003-2009), as the agency's sixth Commissioner in 2003 saw the undertaking of several new initiatives including an enhanced emphasis on re-entry and mental health. At the time, she was one of only a half dozen women correctional agency leaders in the country. Commissioner Lantz revised the agency's Mission Statement as a measure of the Department's enhanced commitment to the reintegration of offenders.
The Mission Statement now reads, "The Connecticut Department of Correction shall protect the public, protect staff and provide safe, secure and humane supervision of offenders with opportunities that support successful community reintegration."
It should be noted that since its inception, the Department has been committed to the successful reintegration of offenders into the community. As early as 1971, a pre-release counseling and referral program on wheels regularly visited correctional centers.
At the request of Commissioner Lantz, the State's General Assembly in 2004, placed the parole officers responsible for community supervision of offenders re-entering society, back under the Department, to provide a continuum of care, custody and control from the first day of incarceration until the last.
The Re-Entry Model she established is designed to enhance public safety. It provides offenders with programming to prepare for their release while they are still incarcerated and permits appropriate offenders a period of supervised release in the community, prior to the end of their sentence to guide their return to law-abiding society.
The Lantz administration also undertook a consolidation of the agency's mental health treatment. Adult male offenders with significant mental health needs were brought together at the Garner Correctional Institution to improve the delivery and efficiency of treatment. The program was replicated at the Manson Youth Institution as well at the York Correctional Institution.
Despite a combined jail/prison correctional system that puts the offender population at the mercy of up swings in crime, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports, Connecticut has over the past three years been very successful in reducing our incarcerated population. Connecticut led the nation in 2003 with a 4.2 reduction, one of only 11 states to show a decrease. In 2004 there was a 1.9% reduction, again one of only 11 states and the latest report which is fiscal year 2005, shows a 1.4% reduction, one of only 12 states to do so.
The reduction is credited to Commissioner Lantz's Re-Entry Model, which stresses preparation for return to the community and therefore a reduction in recidivism. She has also increased to a large extent, the collaboration with the other state agencies that work with this same population, including the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Social Services and the Judicial Branch, so that the entire state service system is working toward the same end.
On May 13, 2005, the Department of Correction, in accordance with state statutes and court orders, carried out the execution of Michael B. Ross for the murders of four women. It was the first application of capital punishment in 45 years in Connecticut. It was also the first carried out by lethal injection. It was the 74th execution carried out in the state since 1894.
The beginning of fiscal year 2006-2007 found the Connecticut Department of Correction again challenged by a rising inmate population, driven in part by a summer upswing in youth violence in the state's urban areas. Despite the numbers, the state's correctional facilities remain safe, secure and orderly. Performance measures for the agency such as assaults and inmate grievances remain at extremely low levels. The agency is now consists of 18 correctional facilities, a nationally accredited training academy and a Central Office location in Wethersfield. Offenders are young as 14, are incarcerated either at the Manson Youth Institution in Cheshire or at the York Correctional Institution, which is the state's women's facility.
Health, mental health and dental care for the inmate population are provide through collaboration with the University of Connecticut Correctional Managed Health Care. Each offender entering the system is assessed for medical needs, which are then met either inside the facility or at a special prison ward at the University of Connecticut Medical Center in Farmington.
Most recently, the agency has enhanced its investment in workforce excellence. All new staff receives 10 weeks of training through the agency's nationally accredited Maloney Center for Training and Staff Development. Under a new initiative, mid-level managerial staff is further prepared for promotion to the level of command staff. Through the unique Leadership Excellence and Development (LeaD) Program, tomorrow's leaders are mentored as to what their responsibilities and expectations will be as they matriculate through the agency.
First woman appointed as a Deputy Commissioner-
1969- Janet York
First woman hired as a correction officer- 1972- Anna Thompson
First woman correction officer to work in a male maximum security facility-
10/11/1974 - Ellen Flagg-Malave
1977- Jacqueline Poisson
First African American woman warden- 1984- Evelyn Bush
First woman warden of a male maximum security facility (Walker CI)
1995- Mary Marcial
First Hispanic woman appointed as warden- 2006- Esther Torres