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CHESHIRE, CT — Three recent assaults on staff that the Manson Youth Institution have the unions representing correction officers and teaching staff calling for greater accountability.

A teacher, correctional lieutenant and correction officer were assaulted in separate incidents on May 17, May 31, and June 4.

Each incident was a separate incident and there’s been no determination by the Department of Correction about why they may have happened, but it’s put those who work with the 14-21 year olds on edge.

“There’s definitely been a void in regards to how these inmates are held accountable,” AFSCME Local 387 President Rudy Demiraj, a state correctional officer, said Tuesday.

Demiraj said correction officers used to be able to use “administrative segregation” as a deterrent, but he blames the influence of outside groups like the Vera Institute of Justice for taking away its leverage.

The Vera Institute of Justice is partnering with the Cheshire Correctional Institute to run the T.R.U.E. program, which involves older prisoners mentoring younger ones to set them on a better path and other developmentally appropriate programming. The program is not at the Manson Youth Institution, but is part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s larger vision for a “Second Chance Society.” 

Demiraj said inmates who get administrative segregation now don’t have privileges taken away from them. He said they might be moved to another facility, but they are still treated like they are in the general population.

He said solitary confinement was never really used with this population, but recreation and visitation privileges had been removed in the past. However, that’s no longer the practice.

The Department of Correction said the safety of the men and women who work within our correctional facilities has and will continue to be the agency’s top priority.

“An assault on a Department of Correction employee is simply intolerable,” Karen Martucci, director of external affairs for the agency, said. “Let me reassure the staff and the public at large, that criminal justice reform in the State of Connecticut prisons is not taking place at the expense of public safety.”

Martucci said two of the inmates involved in the incidents were transferred to Northern Correctional Institution and placed in administrative segregation within hours of the incidents. The third remains on restrictive status at the Manson facility.

“The Warden of the Manson Youth Institution has met with representatives from both the correction officers union as well as the teachers union to insure proper procedures are followed and to insure that similar incidents do not repeat themselves,” Martucci added.

Roland Bishop, a school teacher with CSEA SEIU Local 2001, said the teachers in these facilities are “dedicated to providing a productive educational and safe environment for students and teachers alike.”

However, “as criminal justice reform is implemented, it is incredibly important that the School District leadership and Department of Correction do their part on safety, and right now they are falling short as these recent assaults show, “Bishop added.

Martucci said the the best suggestions and recommendations come from those with firsthand knowledge on the front line.

“The management of the Department of Correction not only listens to, but values their input,” she added.