Garner Correctional Institution State pf Connecticut

State Sen. Saud Anwar, myself and CT Child Advocate Sarah Egan got the opportunity to tour Garner Correctional Facility a few weeks ago and meet with a young inmate. I had previously toured Cheshire Correctional prior to the pandemic. This time I didn’t cry on the way home, but I did say to my colleagues, “We have to start over.”

We can’t reform cages in systems that were designed to humiliate and punish (disproportionately brown and Black) humans, especially when these facilities, in the wake of the de-institutionalization of the 70’s and 80’s, now house people with serious mental illness battling post-traumatic stress injury and long-term effects of trauma. I came away further convinced that hell harms those who work inside it as well.

State Rep. Anne Hughes

State-sanctioned torture cannot be normalized. And these antiquated systems of humiliation, like mandatory strip and cavity searches before and after visitation when there is ubiquitous non-invasive public safety technology in every airport to scan every passenger, is itself criminal, a deliberate form of torture.

Human caging referred to as “recreation” is torture. If an incarcerated resident is not on “special management,” they may be allowed to spend time in a chain link cage “outside” with a cement slab underfoot and the chained-linked roof open to the sky. No grass, no trees, no garden, no natural ground of soil to reprieve the mind. A cage with a view of the sky. Nothing inside the cage, and a corrections officer seated outside the cage to watch. This is how “good behavior” and compliance is rewarded. An external cage kennel, about 20 feet long.

Our “corrections system” is a recipe for violence, not an antidote for criminal behavior. We have ignored the research and evidence of best practices, and continue to default to our punitive, dehumanizing systems, caging often low-wealth, over-policed communities deeply divested of opportunity, education, capital, credit, safe drinking water, clean air and traumatized by gun violence. Then we ignore or undertreat the medical and mental health conditions of people once they are imprisoned.

As policymakers, we must demand better oversight of this default system that further harms our residents. Ninety percent of incarcerated people will return to the community, and their compounded trauma and punitive caging and strip body cavity searches during this incarceration erodes the humanity of those who work within and enforce the torture, further risking the health and safety of the corrections staff.

The recent incidents of incarcerated people who lash out at those enforcing the caging are predictable. This is a recipe for violence, not deterrence. We know there are better ‘Corrections’ models that work. Let’s summon the will and leadership to start with these. For more information, see

State Rep. Anne Hughes, LMSW, represents the 135th House District Easton, Redding and Weston.