The federal prison for women in Danbury will convert back to a male prison starting next month when female inmates will begin to be transferred to federal prisons in Alabama and other parts of the country.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is making the move because of an increased need for male bed space, bureau spokesman Chris Burke said Friday.
The conversion will start in August, when the bureau will gradually begin to transfer the 1,126 women in the low-security prison to a new prison in Aliceville, Ala., and to facilities in other states.
Some observers have criticized the conversion because it means that inmates could be relocated far from their children, in some cases. The Alabama prison is about 1,000 miles from Connecticut, a long and expensive trip for children to travel to visit their mothers, said Beatrice Codianni, managing editor of Reentry Central, a Connecticut-based national weekly online publication about criminal justice and reentry programs.
“These women are being moved so far away from their children it’s breaking my heart,” Codianni said.
“This will have consequences for children who have difficulty with having parents in prison already. They might act out. And the women, of course, get depressed,” she said.
Burke, of the federal bureau, said the transfers will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“It’s certainly true that some will be further from home. But some might be closer,” he said, noting that some Danbury inmates are from other parts of the country.
“Each case will be taken a look at and a recommendation will be made for a transfer, hopefully to keep as close to home as possible,” Burke said.
The bureau hopes to begin moving male inmates into Danbury in December, returning the prison to its original roots as a men’s prison 19 years ago. Burke said the facility would remain classified as “low security,” the second-lowest security level for federal prisons.
The move will not affect the satellite Danbury “Camp” facility, a minimum security prison that will continue to house about 217 women. Nor will it affect the staff at the Connecticut facilities, Burke said.
Codianni said the move may address overcrowding in men’s prison, but she said that women’s prisons are over capacity as well.
Danbury is the only federal prison in Connecticut. It opened in 1940 as a minimum-security prison for men, and the nearby camp opened for men in 1982, Burke said. In 1988, the camp converted to a women’s facility, followed by the prison in 1994.
Connecticut also has a separately run state prison for women, the York Correctional Institution in Niantic. The maximum-security prison currently houses about 1,000 inmates.