Washington — Some, but not all, of the female prisoners at Danbury Correctional Institution who were slated to be moved as far away as Alabama will be able to stay at the Connecticut prison, lawmakers said Monday.
The federal Bureau of Prisons had planned to move about 1,000 female prisoners from that low-security facility to make room for male prisoners.
But the bureau has reversed its course a bit. It now plans to build a new facility on the prison campus to allow about 200 female prisoners to stay.
“I’m pleased that the Bureau of Prisons has reversed its course,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
The Danbury facility holds low-security federal female prisoners from all over New England, as well as from New York, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Prison advocates have been arguing that moving the women to a facility in Alabama, as proposed by the bureau, would make it difficult, and maybe impossible, for their children and other family members to visit.
“These women did something wrong, that’s why they are in prison. But their kids didn’t,” Murphy said.
Fifty–nine percent of the Danbury inmates have a child under the age of 21.
The Bureau of Prisons’ decision to keep some women inmates at the Danbury lockup — the only women’s prison in the Northeast — comes after Murphy, fellow Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other senators from the region asked the agency to reverse course.
The senators won a temporary delay of the transfers, which were to begin in August, while the BOP answered a series of questions posed by Murphy.
But last month, the Bureau of Prisons said it would begin moving the women out of the Danbury facility.
That prompted a dozen federal judges, including Judge Janet Hall, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, to write to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last month asking him to stop the transfers.
“On behalf of the judges who are tasked with sentencing these women to federal prison, we urge you to reconsider,” the judges’ letter said.
Blumenthal said he met with Holder at a social event recently and also lobbied him to keep the women in Danbury.
“It was like pushing an open door. He gets it,” Blumenthal said.
There are also more than 200 minimal security female prisoners at Danbury at a camp outside the prison. The BOP had no plans to relocate them, and they will remain after their camp is renovated.
But they will be moved temporarily to a federal facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., while the camp is renovated. So will the minimum security female prisoners who are slated to occupy the new facility that will be built on the campus.
Beatrice Codianni, who completed a 15-year sentence at the Danbury facility, said she is glad of the change in policy and the Bureau of Prison’s decision to upgrade the minimum-security camp because it shows a commitment to keep it open. “The women in the camp were terrified they were next (to move),“ Codianni said.
But at least 900 female prisoners will leave Danbury permanently to make room for their male counterparts.
More than 200 will be sent to facilities in Hazelton, W. Va., or Philadelphia, moves that will take them closer to their families, the BOP said.
Another 282 Danbury inmates from other parts of the country will be moved to Texas, Minnesota, Florida, Alabama or California.
About 450 Danbury inmates are being held on immigration-related charges, and their hometowns are not a consideration in relocation, the Board of Immigration Appeals has said.
Codianni, who now serves as managing editor of a national website for inmates trying to re-enter society, said she “is not thrilled” by the BOP’s new plan.
“But I’ll take what I can get,” she said.