The governor announced plans Wednesday to close Radgowski Correctional Center, one part of a two-building, medium-security prison in Uncasville, and the second prison closure this year.
Radgowski, slated to shut its doors by Dec. 31, is a male prison first opened in 1991. It is part of the larger Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution. The Corrigan portion of the facility includes a jail to house accused offenders. As of Wednesday, Radgowski housed 108 inmates down from its peak of 734 in 2014.
Gov. Ned Lamont made the announcement in an afternoon press release, citing the state’s low prison population.
“Spending millions of dollars in annual operating costs on buildings that have historically low numbers of incarcerated individuals inside is just not a good use of resources,” Lamont said. “By relocating them to other facilities that have available capacity, we can deliver on our administration’s goal of reducing the cost structure of state government. I applaud the ongoing work of all the correction professionals at the Department of Correction, whose work keeps our facilities safe and secure.”
The men incarcerated at Radgowski are expected to be transferred to other facilities in the coming weeks. According to the press release, the facility has a staff of 110 workers, most of them are correction officers. Some of the staff will remain at Corrigan and others may be reassigned to other locations.
Although Connecticut’s prison population has long been in decline from its highwater mark of 19,894 inmates in February of 2008, it dropped sharply during the pandemic. As of Sept. 1, the DOC reported a total of 9,272 people incarcerated in Connecticut jails and prisons.
In February, Lamont’s budget director Melissa McCaw announced plans to close three state prisons over the course of the two-year operating budget. The first was Northern Correctional Institution in June. The Somers-based “supermax” facility had long been the target of advocates who opposed its conditions for high risk offenders.
Earlier this year, McCaw estimated that the Department of Corrections would save $20 million in the first year and nearly $47 million in the second as a result of the expected prison closures. Radgowski’s closure is expected to save $7.3 million in annual operating costs, according to the press release.
In a statement, Michael Vargo, president of AFSCME Local 1565, the union representing correction workers at Radgowski, said the closure was short-sighted.
“The DOC’s decision to close the Radgowski facility may save money short-term but will harm safety and security over the long term,” Vargo said. “The men and women who work in Connecticut’s prisons have a very dangerous and difficult job to begin with. Closing facilities and moving offenders around while failing to hire additional staff is a recipe for failure.”
House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora also reacted with skepticism that the closure would result in long-term savings.
“Simply moving employees from one prison facility to another isn’t a point to celebrate, and it should instead trigger a broader conversation about the governor negotiating with unions to more accurately reflect on-the-ground staffing needs at our facilities,” Candelora said.
In a press release, the administration said the prison population had dropped by more than 3,200 in the last 17 months and a third prison closure was still pending. Correction Commissioner Angel Quiros said closing a prison was a complicated process.
“However, thanks to the high caliber of our agency’s staff, I am confident that we will be able to successfully close this facility – just as we recently closed the Northern facility – in a well-planned, methodical manner while preserving jobs and continuing to protect the public’s safety,” Quiros said.