Gov. Malloy Announces Opening of New Corrections Unit Preparing Young Female Inmates to Become Productive Members of Society
Unit Opened with Goal of Preventing Young Adult Offenders from Becoming Career Criminals
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Scott Semple today announced the opening of a new unit at the York Correctional Institution in Niantic that will house female offenders between the ages of 18 to 25 who are nearing the end of their sentences with the goal of preventing these young adults who have committed nonviolent crimes from beginning a life of crime and returning to prison.
Known as W.O.R.T.H. – which stands for Women Overcoming Recidivism Through Hard work – this unit will provide young offenders with access to developmentally appropriate programming that seeks to engage them as productive members of society. It was modeled after the T.R.U.E. unit at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, which opened in March 2017 and houses male offenders of similar ages.
York Correctional Institution is the state’s only institution for female offenders.
“This program recognizes that young people should not be defined solely by the mistakes of their past, but rather they should be recognized for their future potential as productive members of our society,” Governor Malloy said. “For too long, a prison sentence that began by one ill-advised and impulsive mistake has been one that can condemn a young person for life, creating a cycle that just leads to more crime. By intervening at the early stages of someone’s life, we can stop this vicious cycle before it begins. These efforts in the long run will lower crime, allow us to close more prisons and focus taxpayer dollars on education, economic development, and infrastructure projects that create better communities for all of us. The work that is happening inside of our correctional facilities over the last several years has been remarkable, and I truly want to thank all of the frontline officers who are playing a critical role in our efforts to reduce crime and put youth on a better path toward a successful future.”
“The criminal justice policies that we implement have a real-life impact on our ability to reduce crime within our communities,” First Lady Cathy Malloy said. “The effect of even a short prison sentence can be devastating and far reaching – possibly leading to the inability to gain employment and exacerbating the kind of instability that can lead to a life of crime. Intervening early can prevent disastrous results while at the same time keep our communities safer.”
“Through programs such as the W.O.R.T.H. Unit, we are making a conscience investment in the young adult female offender population with the goal of positively impacting recidivism,” Commissioner Semple said. “Public safety will ultimately be enhanced as these young women return to their communities with the necessary skill sets to become better mothers, daughters, employees, and neighbors – in short, productive members of our community. The science behind the need for a young adult unit – whether male or female - is essentially the same. However, the W.O.R.T.H. Unit is based entirely on the unique needs of the female population. I am excited about this new chapter in criminal justice reform. We certainly have a successful foundation from which to build on. I cannot overstate how proud I am of our agency staff.”
Both the T.R.U.E. Unit and the W.O.R.T.H. Unit are products of Governor Malloy’s Second Chance Society initiative, which he began in 2015 to reform the state’s criminal justice system in order to become more effective at reducing recidivism and thereby lower overall crime rates.
The initiatives are showing results – today the rate of crime in Connecticut is at its lowest level in 50 years. Over the last four years, Connecticut has experienced the largest reduction in violent crime of any state in the nation. The annual number of reported crimes in Connecticut has dropped 26 percent since 2008, and the total number of statewide arrests in the state has dropped 29 percent since 2008. The state’s prison population has dropped to 13,350 inmates – its lowest level since 1994 and well below the all-time high of 19,893 inmates in 2008.
The W.O.R.T.H. Unit, similar to the T.R.U.E. Unit, recognizes the urgency to trying a different approach to working with young adults given that they are re-incarcerated at higher rates compared to any other age group. Interceding and providing mentorship at a young age can prevent a young offender from turning toward a life of crime as an adult.
Under the program, young adult inmates work side-by-side with older mentors who have met the high standards to enter the program and provide the young people with support and help to achieve their goals. These mentors have gone through training involving Young Adult Development, Cross-Generational mentorship, conflict resolution, and program facilitation.
Today there are 19 people housed in the W.O.R.T.H. Unit. It has a capacity of 50 offenders.
Since the T.R.U.E. Unit launched last year, it has gained national attention as being the only program of its kind in the country and officials in other states have begun working to replicate its progress. In May, Governor Malloy and First Lady Cathy Malloy hosted a Reimagining Justice conference inside of the Cheshire Correctional Institution, which was attended by about 150 frontline officials – including judges, prosecutors, victim advocates, corrections officers, legislators, incarcerated individuals, educational leaders, and others. It was the first time in the nation that a conference of its kind was held within the walls of a maximum security prison.