Christine Stuart photo
Mothballed wing of Osborn Correctional Institution (Christine Stuart photo)

SOMERS, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined Correction Department Commissioner Scott Semple at the Osborn Correctional Institute in Somers on Wednesday to tout his administration’s success in reducing crime and the prison population.

The setting for the press conference was a recently mothballed wing of the medium security prison built in 1963 that housed 400 inmates before it closed in October.

“Our inmate population is dropping not because we are opening up the prisons and letting people out. That’s not the reason. But because fewer people are committing crimes which then leads to their arrest and incarceration,” Malloy said.

Christine Stuart photo
Cell (Christine Stuart photo)

New admissions to prison are the single biggest factor behind the dropping prison population, down 17 percent since 2012. The total prison population is down 13 percent over the same period, according to state officials.

“This is not a fluke,” Malloy said. “This is hard work…it’s also good policy and good laws.”

Over the last year, Connecticut experienced the second-largest drop in violent crime in the country. Connecticut was one of only nine states to see a drop in violent crime between 2014 and 2015, according to F.B.I. statistics. At the same time, the number of murders in the state increased by 31.5 percent.

The number of inmates housed Wednesday at Osborn was 1,388, which is down from an all-time high of 2,000 back in 2008 during Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration. Rell briefly halted all parole following the 2007 Cheshire home invasion. In January 2008, 11 inmates at Osborn filed a lawsuit detailing the cramped conditions at the facility, which required at least two inmates to share a cell.

“Factoring in all the stationary material in the cells, including the bed, toilet, desk, and storage locker, the available floor space which can be utilized by the inmates is approximately 27 square feet. That equates to 13 square feet per inmate,” the lawsuit said.

The total prison population back in January 2008 was 19,770.

The total prison population was down to about 14,825 inmates Wednesday, according to state officials. At the beginning of October there were 15,010 inmates in the state correctional facilities.

In 2015, Malloy was able to get the the legislature to agree to a package of criminal justice reforms that got rid of mandatory minimums for possession of narcotics within 1,500 feet of schools or daycares.

In the first year the law took effect, the number of pre-trial prisoners with a controlling offense of narcotics possession has dropped 49.4 percent and the number of sentenced possession offenders has dropped by 41.3 percent for a total reduction of 44.1 percent. As of Nov. 1 the total number of individuals held on that charge was down to 266.

Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said drop in the prison population means “the criminal justice reforms championed by Gov. Malloy are working.”

But not every effort Malloy has made has been successful. Malloy was unable last year in getting a package of bail and juvenile justice reforms passed by the legislature. He said he will try again this year.

As far as the drop in violent crime is concerned, “I know it’s hard for them [the legislature] to admit, but we must being doing something right,” Malloy said.

During his tenure, Malloy had closed three prisons and there are plans to close one more before the end of the fiscal year. However, Malloy did not know which one is on the chopping block.

Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with Correction Commissioner Scott Semple and Osborn Warden Edward Maldonado (Christine Stuart photo)

There are 20 correctional facilities in Connecticut.

Over the past year the Correction Department’s budget has been reduced $71 million.

Malloy traveled to Germany last year to see how a Berlin facility is managing to pay less and getting better results than American prisons. Part of the journey was documented by a 60 Minutes.

Malloy, a former prosecutor, seems to want to make criminal justice part of his legacy.

The two-term governor said he’s contemplating a third term.

“I’m actively considering it, both pro and con,” Malloy said. “Gotta lot to do on other things and I’ll let you know.”