As CT Legislature Convenes for 2021, Impacted People & Community Groups Call on Lawmakers to CUT Correctional Populations, SHUT Down Prisons, and INVEST the Savings Into Communities Most Impacted by Mass Incarceration

Wednesday, January 6th, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  

Kenyatta Thompson, kthompson@katalcenter.org | (860) 937-6094

Sumeet Sharma, ssharma@katalcenter.org | (646) 591-9483

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #CutShutINVEST

 

As CT Legislature Convenes for 2021, Impacted People & Community Groups Call on Lawmakers to CUT Correctional Populations, SHUT Down Prisons, and INVEST the Savings Into Communities Most Impacted by Mass Incarceration


CT Spends millions every year to arrest and lock people up– disproportionately people of color--while failing to invest enough into the basic needs of every community 

 

Hartford, CT – Today, on the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session, community groups and people directly impacted by mass incarceration and systemic racism in Connecticut joined together to call on the Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, Speaker of the House Representative Matt Ritter, and Governor Ned Lamont to take action to end mass incarceration and systemic racism in Connecticut. 

For too long, communities of color in Connecticut – especially Black and Latinx people– have been targeted and impacted by systemic racism, mass criminalization, and mass incarceration. Connecticut is spending millions every year to arrest and lock people up–disproportionately people of color --while failing to invest enough into the basic needs of every community in our state, including housing, healthcare, education, transportation, and jobs. The state department with the most staff in Connecticut is the Department of Corrections, which has, for instance, twice as many staff as the Department of Transportation. And since 2017, Connecticut’s prison population has dropped by 5,000--a historic drop driven by community demand for reform--but no prisons have been shut down during this period, costing taxpayers millions.

Community groups and directly impacted people are calling on the General Assembly and  Governor Lamont to cut, shut, and invest:

  • Cut the number of people incarcerated in jails and prisons, cut the number of people on probation and parole, cut the number of correctional staff, cut down the funding to Department of Corrections
  • Shut prisons down, starting with Northern Correctional Institution
  • Invest in the communities most harmed by systemic racism and mass incarceration, into housing, healthcare, education, jobs, and more. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to further decarcerate and close prisons as the 14th incarcerated individual passed away from COVID-19 on Saturday, January 2, 2021. This was the seventh incarcerated individual to pass away since Nov. 18th, 2020. In Connecticut and around the country, public health experts are recommending further decarceration. Just late last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a major report calling for large-scale releases and decarceration to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

In the 2021 legislative session, Governor Lamont and the state legislature must pass bills to further cut correctional populations in Connecticut, shut down prisons, and invest in communities. The call to #CutShutINVEST aligns with the national movement for racial justice and reforming the criminal legal system. By cutting correctional budgets and shutting prisons, hundreds of millions can be invested into community needs that actually produce safety and justice. Now is the time for real action to end mass incarceration and advance racial justice in Connecticut. 

Quotes from community groups and directly impacted people: 

State Representative Robyn Porter said: "The prison system and its punitive, retributive, and dehumanizing culture is not the answer to our crime problem. We must reverse the use of state funding for prisons back to schools and other essential services that invest in building people up, not beating them down. Prevention and rehabilitation is the key. Fewer prisons means more resources that benefit the communities most in need."

Imani Pennant, Member of the Katal Center, said: "Our current system uses surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as failing solutions to address what are, in all reality, economic, social, and political problems in communities. Surveillance, policing, and imprisonment do not reduce recidivism, and often, they exacerbate the problem. We need to ensure that we cut the prison population, shut (or close) these unnecessary facilities, and invest the money spent on incarceration in our communities. The Governor, and the legislature, must cut, shut, and invest! Only then will we have a real shot at changing our justice system for the better."

Christina Quaranta, Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, said: "Connecticut disproportionately detains and incarcerates Black youth, and youth of color. We continue to place youth in the adult system or lock them up in other prison-like environments. Even more, we continue to abuse children by spraying them with chemical agents as a means of control, and cause irreparable harm by placing children in solitary confinement. We must move with urgency to break down the pathways that continue to push kids into the justice system. We have to work together as a community to close prisons, release people with resources, and invest in youth, families, and communities."

Barbara Fair, Organizer with Stop Solitary CT, said: "Connecticut needs a plan for decarceration; one which begins with ending the over policing and over criminalization of communities of color. The proliferation of prisons in the state, which benefits certain communities while destroying others, is shameful. Northern Correctional Institution, a Supermax facility, essentially breaks one's spirit and shatters their minds-- it is both shameful and criminal to keep Northern open. Incarcerated people are sitting ducks in these facilities, and the Governor could have released thousands safely at the onset of the pandemic. Now, as the virus spreads, we are witnessing people getting sick and dying from the pancemic at alarming rates. Where is the public outrage for this shameless, callous disregard for life? Prisons are not an effective response to rising mental illness, addiction, poverty and other social problems. It is time to close some of these incubators of disease." 

Kathy Flaherty, Executive Director of the CT Legal Rights Project, said: “Connecticut has done a lot to reduce its prison and jail population, yet we still have the same number of facilities in the state as we did 3 years ago. I do not enjoy policy arguments based on the budget, because we should not be assigning a dollar value to people’s lives. However, the cost of maintaining these facilities does not represent a good investment of state dollars. This state must address the needs of communities harmed by the system by making, and keeping, a promise to re-invest the savings from these prison closures in our communities. People with disabilities are overrepresented in correctional facilities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics show that people in state and federal correctional facilities are nearly 3x as likely to report having a disability. The Governor, and the legislature, must close unneeded and obsolete facilities and invest those funds in the communities that need it.”

Charlie Grady, President and Founder of Hang Time, said: "We at Hang Time in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Waterbury are boots on the ground examples of success for returning citizens from incarceration. When funds are spent on continual support services and effective programming, the recidivism rate for repeat offenses is reduced. Fund transformation which reduces recidivism."

Adaisa Ramos, Project Coordinator for Project KIKI, said: "Incarceration is the most demanding racial justice issue of our time. Our communities need education, jobs, reentry programs, and more. Instead, our investment in incarceration harms us all. Marginalized communities, including LGBTQ Black and brown people, end up suffering the most. It's time to close these facilities and invest in our people."

The Coordinating Council of the Keep The Promise Coalition said: "The State of Connecticut owes its residents to make investments in people by dedicating funds to community mental health services, instead of investing in structures and systems that contain people who have not received the help they needed. Closing these facilities would result in much needed savings for our communities."

Shamare G. Holmes, Program Director for Her Time, said: "The reallocation of funds from CT's immense prison system to transitional services would undoubtedly ensure the decline of recidivism in the state, and especially in Bridgeport. Services such as mental health support, solid employment and trade options, reasonable housing, reliable transportation, quality education, family counseling, and relevant life skills trainings should and could be made readily available if we prioritized funding preventative and maintenance measures opposed to punitive and costly punishment."

Tenesha Grant, Director of Women's Services at Community Renewal Team, said: "Closing prisons and reallocating funding to increase behavioral health services as well as support services (case management, employment and education services, housing) will create a greater impact to reduce the recidivism rate of those returning and residing in the Greater Hartford area."

Lorenzo Jones, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “There’s all this talk by elected leaders in Connecticut about Black Lives Matter but white supremacists have controlled the federal government for years, COVID-19 is killing people in Connecticut and spreading in state prisons and jails, and families across our state are struggling to make ends meet in the worst economic environment in generations. What we need is action, not more talk. If Governor Lamont believes Black Lives Matter, he should show it, through policy reform. If the Legislative leaders believe Black Lives Matter, they should show it, through policy reform. Cut down the number of people in our prisons and jails, decarcerate now. Shut down the prisons like Northern and other hellholes. Take the savings and invest in communities, into the things people need like housing, healthcare, education. Show that Black Lives Matter through action, not hollow proclamations. It’s time.” 

 

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