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Gov. Malloy last December announcing the closure of a housing unit at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that Enfield Correctional Institute will close in early 2018.

The 700 offenders currently housed there will be moved to other facilities to save about $6.5 million annually.

This is the fourth prison Malloy has closed. He has closed Bergin Correctional Institution in Storrs, Gates Correctional Institution in Niantic, and Webster Correctional Institution in Cheshire. He also also mothballed parts of other facilities. He closed the Radgowski Annex Building at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Montville, four housing units at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, the Niantic Annex at York Correctional Institution and the Fairmont building at the Bridgeport Correctional Center.

The inmate population peaked in 2008 at 19,894. That was the year after then Gov. M. Jodi Rell suspended parole following the gruesome murder of a Cheshire family by two parolees who were living in a Hartford halfway house.

Since that time the prison population has declined.

As of Tuesday, there were 14,103 inmates incarcerated within Connecticut’s state prison system – 836 fewer than on this date last year. 

“As crime in Connecticut has dropped to its lowest level in two generations, new prison admissions have declined 38 percent over the last 10 years, and the prison population has reached its lowest level in 23 years, we’ve been able to create efficiencies by closing outdated facilities and reallocating these resources toward efforts that will further enhance public safety initiatives and keep our neighborhoods even safer,” Malloy said in a press release. “Across the nation, elected leaders from both sides of the aisle are recognizing that these kinds of reforms are working, and Connecticut is leading these efforts.”

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The Enfield Correctional Institution is a Level 3, medium security facility. It originally opened in 1962 as a low-level, pre-release facility.

Corrections Commissioner Scott Semple credits a combination of factors for the historically low offender population, including the Second Chance legislation introduced by Malloy, steadily declining crime rates, and enhanced agency reentry efforts.

“When you couple the forecast on population counts with the fiscal challenges facing the state of Connecticut, this closure is a responsible and appropriate decision,” Semple said.  “As we navigate through this process, the safety and security of all our institutions will remain a top priority – one which will not be compromised.”

Semple and Malloy said they will work with the union representing the 190 staff at the facility to transfer them to vacancies in other facilities near the one in Enfield.

Collin Provost, president of the Connecticut State Prison Employees Union, AFSCME Local 391, said the closure is not surprising, but it gives them a reason to be concerned.

“We are monitoring the situation to ensure that all aspects of the closure are handled properly, safely and in accordance with our collective bargaining agreement for all our staff,” Provost said.

He said they will remain vigilant and speak out if the “continued reduction in the inmate population compromises the safety and security of staff, inmates, or the community.”