prisons | Connecticut Public Radio


Kudumomo / Creative Commons

The plan to transfer all female prisoners out of the Danbury federal facility is back in effect today, although it remains to be seen whether the government shutdown will slow transfers. While we wait to see what happens next, The Wheelhouse Digest is making a pit stop in New London, where a German website has taken an interest in development news. Also a must-see: the "Saturday Night Live" send-up of a square white Connecticut mom who checks out Grand Theft Auto 5, and ended up playing it all week.

TCY / Wikimedia Commons

As we mourn the passing of legendary Connecticut photojournalist Bill Eppridge today -- he was 75 -- we're also thinking at The Wheelhouse Digest about the bizarre incident in Washington, D.C. on Thursday that ended fatally, when a Stamford woman tried to drive through a barrier toward the White House. More on that and our dashed hopes about commuting by helicopter below.

Manny Broussard / FEMA

As the fall leaves begin to turn in Connecticut, we're thinking today at The Wheelhouse Digest about a few other things turning a corner as well. Efforts toward school reform in Bridgeport were pushed back last week. A former Latin Kings member in New Haven found a way to transform herself and her work. And everything will be turning up jobs if we just borrow some more, according to a new report. Here's a taste of the news you need to know now.

The county's Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles is a hulking, massive concrete structure. It is also part of the largest municipal jail system in the United States.

On a recent day, four men enter handcuffed with a police escort. The sheriff's deputies assign them cells, and for the duration of their sentences, this is home. The men wear bright blue pants and neon yellow shirts to set them apart from other inmates.

Prisons Ban Wally Lamb Books, Then Reverse Course

Aug 22, 2013
Chion Wolf / WNPR

 Wally Lamb, the best-selling author, advocate for female prisoners, and frequent contributor to The Colin McEnroe Show, reported last night that the Connecticut Department of Corrections had banned his book "She's Come Undone" and put "I'll Fly Away" on an "endangered list."  

Then we got this statement from the State Department of Correction less than a day after the news broke: 

Kudumomo / Creative Commons

Piper Kerman brought a suitcase of cash across international borders as the 20-year-old girlfriend of an international drug trafficker.

By the time she was 34, Piper outgrew her need for adventure, but not the crime that landed her in prison more than a decade later, despite that she was living a respectable life with a boyfriend, family, and artisanal soap business in New York City's West Village.

Transfer of Female Danbury Prisoners Halted

Aug 14, 2013

The Bureau of Prisons has suspended the transfer of more than 1,100 female inmates from the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut to Alabama. Their decision comes after a letter to the bureau, co-signed by 11 Northeast senators, including Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.  In a statement, Murphy said the transfer would "nearly eliminate federal prison beds for women in the Northeast" while using the facility for male inmates.

Connecticut's Criminal Justice System

Aug 5, 2013
Kudumomo on Flickr Creative Commons

We talk this hour about the case of Bonnie Foreshaw, serving the longest sentence of any Connecticut woman for the death of a pregnant woman. Her case is back in the news because of new revelations and high profile support.  

Courtesy of State DOC

An inmate who has been on a hunger strike for more than six years was back in court Thursday. 

William Coleman, a native of Great Britain has completed an eight year sentence for spousal rape. Yet he's still in prison.

To find out more, WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil spoke with Christine Stuart, editor of the has covered Coleman's complicated case for years. 

Two bills that would change the way Connecticut sentences juveniles convicted of serious crimes are making their way through the legislature.  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, they come in response to U-S Supreme Court rulings that say treating young people like adults could violate the constitution. The proposed bills come with the recommendation of the Connecticut Sentencing Commission -- a mix of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, corrections officials and others.  And both of them deal with the lengthy adult sentences imposed on juveniles and hinge on the idea that kids are different than adults, and should be treated that way.  One is called house bill 6581.  For those people in prison serving lengthy sentences for crimes they committed when they were younger than 18, this bill would give them a second-look.  That means it would mandate a parole hearing after a good portion of their sentences had been served. Sarah Russell is a law professor at the Quinnipiac School of Law.

Gideon At 50

Mar 25, 2013
Flickr, The Commons

Gideon v. Wainwright is arguably one of the most influential cases in law history. Fifty years ago this month, it changed American law by providing counsel to those who could not afford it on their own.

Today, on Where We Live, we reflect with Connecticut public defenders on this landmark verdict. The anniversary comes in the midst of funding troubles for public defenders and concerns about overzealous and overreaching prosecutions. We talk about work being done in the state to free those who have been wrongfully convicted.

The Epidemic of Mass Incarceration

Mar 11, 2013
James Cridland, Creative Commons

For the first time in a long time, observers of the phenomenon of mass incarceration in America have seen some good news. The rate of African Americans in prison has dropped sharply over a decade - a trend that pushes back against a historical disproportionality of blacks in our prison system.  These numbers come from The Sentencing Project.

A new report shows that Connecticut has sharply cut the the rate at which it puts young people behind bars.  WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, it's the sharpest decline in the nation.  When it comes to rate at which they've slowed the incarceration of young people over the course of a decade, five states fare the best -- Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona, Minnesota and Connecticut.  And our state is at the top of the list, cutting its incarceration rate by more than 50 percent.  That's according to a report released this week by the DC-based Justice Policy Institute.  Spike Bradford is it's author.

r.f.m II on Flickr Creative Commons

  "The average American, in my experience, has no idea what the immigration experience is today."

Getting Out Of Prison...And Staying Out

Oct 26, 2012
Jenn Vargas (Flickr Creative Commons)

One out of every 100 Americans is locked up in jail or prison.

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Most offenders will be released from incarceration, and more than 40% will be back behind bars within three years.

Many states, including Connecticut, are looking at ways to stop that revolving door, make cities safer, and get a better return on corrections investments.

Diane Orson

New Haven is hosting voter registration drives around the city targeted especially at ex-offenders. Many people with criminal records mistakenly think they can’t vote in Connecticut.

"Are you registered?"

"Well, you all just convinced me. Now I want to register."  

Tywain Harris was recently released from prison after serving three years for selling drugs.  Today he’s headed to a job interview. Along the way, for the first time, he’s registered to vote.

Some Republican lawmakers are calling for the suspension of a state program that allows incarcerated inmates to earn credits towards early release from prison.  

A law passed last year allows prisoners who behave well and agree to participate in rehabilitative programs to earn credits towards early release. 

Two murders have taken place in the past few months in Connecticut, allegedly by offenders who’d earned early release credits.  

Kids in Prison: Raising the Age

Jul 2, 2012
vectorportal, creative commons

What's an adult?  And when it comes to crime, should a teenager be treated like one?

Did you know that, up until 2010, 16-year-olds charged with most crimes in Connecticut were handled in the adult judicial system?  And did you know that until yesterday, the same could be said for 17-year-olds? The changes were at the heart of what was called the "raise the age" effort -- and today we'll talk to lawmakers an legal experts about how the new law has played out.

Prison Love

Jun 20, 2012
826 PARANORMAL, Flickr Creative Commons

I never gave much thought to today's topic until 1990, when the Associated Press reported that a woman identified only as Margaret was engaged to be married to Dennis Coleman, serving a 34 year sentence for the murder of Joyce Aparo. The case -- for reasons I don't have time to explain right now -- had transfixed Connecticut and was one of the state's most high profile murders of the 20th century. 

Flickr Creative Commons, Jay Erickson

Three former prisoners at Niantic's York Correctional Institution are staging a play mixing Dante’s Inferno with real life prison stories. WNPR’s Patrick Skahill has more.

When Lynda Gardner was sent to jail for larceny in 2005, she didn't think she'd be reciting lines from Dante's Inferno.  She just thought she was in hell.

"I woke up in York and decided for the first six months I was going to kill myself," Gardner said. " I felt dead."

Diane Orson

Each month, about 100 people are released from prison and return to the city of New Haven. Many have a tough time finding work. Large employers often won’t hire ex-offenders. New Haven has passed a new ordinance that standardizes the procedure to get street vendor or food cart permits in the city.  

37-year old Harold Williams was discharged from prison in January after serving 2 ½ years for selling drugs.  

Diane Orson

Members of Connecticut’s House of Representatives are set to debate a bill to abolish the state’s death penalty.

Death penalty opponents, including families of murder victims, gathered at the Capitol this morning and urged lawmakers to pass the legislation.

Dawn Mancarella spoke on behalf of the more than 170 victims’ families in Connecticut who support a repeal of the state’s death penalty.

State Department of Correction

The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that state prison officials can restrain and force-feed inmates to protect them from life-threatening dehydration and malnutrition. Meanwhile, as WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the inmate who filed suit against the Department of Correction for force-feeding him is on a hunger strike once again. 

Here are links to our recent WNPR series called Leaving Prison.

Part One: Getting Ready To Leave

Part Two: Release Day

Part Three: A Train To Virginia

Jeff Cohen/WNPR

On Tuesday, the State Supreme Court will hear an appeal by an inmate who is challenging the Department of Correction for force feeding him during his hunger strike.

As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, William Coleman believes the force feedings violate his rights to free speech and to refuse medical treatment.

Flickr Creative Commons, Horia Varlan

If you're tired of hearing about how far our public schools lag behind other nations in math and science, get ready for something completely different.

The state House of Representatives has approved a bill that would allow some prisoners to get out of jail early. The Senate passed a version of the bill last week.