When the dust settles, about 400 women will remain at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury and 1,337 will be transferred to prisons closer to their home states.
That’s according to U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, who encouraged the Bureau of Prisons to reverse its decision in late July to move all the female inmates to a new facility they built in Aliceville, Alabama. Under the Bureau of Prisons’ original proposal the Danbury prison would have become an all-male facility.
The Bureau of Prisons decided to make the bulk of the Danbury facility a male prison with about 900 to 1,000 male inmates, according to the senators. But it also will house 400 female inmates, most of whom hail from Northeastern states.
According to Murphy, the Bureau of Prisons has agreed to make renovations to an existing camp facility that houses about 200 female inmates and it will construct a new building to house about 200 more. During the construction period over the next 18 months, the female inmates will be housed at a Brooklyn, New York facility.
“There will be room at Danbury to incarcerate virtually every woman who is sentenced in the Northeast,” Murphy said. “Being sentenced to federal prison is punishment enough. These women shouldn’t be punished again by being separated from their families and their children certainly don’t deserve to be punished as well by being removed even further from their mothers.”
About 59 percent of the female inmates in Danbury have children under the age of 21, according to statistics provided by the Bureau of Prisons.
The transfers of the women from Danbury, which has been an all-female facility since 1994, to Aliceville, Alabama was put on hold during the federal government shutdown during the first half of October. Later in October, 12 federal judges from Northeast states wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to reconsider the decision to transfer the women.
“Ensuring that inmates can stay connected to their families is important for all prisoners, which is why we frequently recommend that the defendants we sentence be housed in facilities as close to the Northeast as possible,” the judges wrote.
“We see regularly in our courtrooms the emotional impact that separation of mother and child has on young children. We believe that maintenance of that relationship through regular visitation is important for mother and child alike.”
Blumenthal said Holder was “focused on this issue as soon as I raised it with him personally and he was taken aback that the Bureau of Prisons had dug in.”
Blumenthal continued: “Frankly, he said we should talk about it. But it was clear he was going to act even before we had another conversation.”
The decision to continue to house women inmates in Danbury comes just days before the Senate Judiciary Committee holds an oversight hearing of the Bureau of Prisons this Wednesday where this issue was likely to be raised.