Washington – Ten days after a group of Democratic senators told the Bureau of Prisoners to stop a plan to move female prisoners in Danbury to facilities in Alabama and other places, the transfer was put on hold.

“We have not transferred any inmates from Danbury to Aliceville (Ala.)  and we are not transferring inmates from Danbury to Aliceville at this time,” said Chris Burke, spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, on Wednesday.

Burke would not say whether the bureau has decided to scrap its plan, or only postpone it.

But the move was hailed by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the senators seeking a stop to the transfer plan on the grounds that it would pose a hardship for the prisoners’ families, especially their children.

“This transfer would nearly eliminate federal prison beds for women in the Northeastern United States and dramatically disrupt the lives of these female inmates and the young children they often leave behind,” Murphy said.

He also said the decision to stop the transfers is an indication that the Bureau of Prisons is preparing responses to a number of questions the senators have about the proposed move of more than 1,000 female prisoners.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also opposes the proposed move.

The Danbury Correctional Institute is an aging facility that has for 20 years housed low-security female offenders from New York, Pennsylvania and New England. There is an adjacent facility that houses minimum security female offenders, but no plans to transfer those inmates elsewhere.

But according to the “mission statement” on the prison’s website, the move of female prisoners in the main facility was necessary so the facility could revert back to a low-security prison for men.

“Beginning in August, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will start transferring the FCI Danbury inmates to other institutions. Once that process is complete–projected for late December 2013–the transition to a low security male facility will begin. It is anticipated that the male inmate population will begin to arrive in late January or early February 2014,” the mission statement said.

Having put the brakes on that process Wednesday, those plans now will be delayed. And if Murphy, Blumenthal and other Democrats from the home states of Danbury’s prisoners prevail, those plans will be scrapped.

In their Aug. 2 letter to the bureau, the senators asked more than a dozen  questions, including”

  • What are the home residences for the women currently housed at Danbury, broken down by city and state?
  • What percentage of the female inmates at Danbury have children under the age of 18?
  • Why was the Danbury facility selected to be converted into a facility for men, given that Aliceville was explained as needed to respond to overcrowding of women’s prisons?
  • How much will it cost to “convert” Danbury to a men’s facility? 

“Until these questions are answered, we request that the Bureau of Prisons suspend its plan to transfer the women inmates from Danbury to Aliceville. These are important concerns that should be properly addressed before any plan is pursued,” the letter said.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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