On July 5 Reentry Central broke the story nationally that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) planned to transfer over 1,000 women from the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, CT to Aliceville, Alabama. The BOP decision raised a storm of opposition, and several Senators wrote a letter to BOP Director Charles E. Samuels that began by stating “We are concerned with the recently announced mission change of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to transfer more than a thousand female inmates from the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury, Connecticut to a new facility in Aliceville, Alabama beginning this month. This plan will permanently convert over 1100 female beds to male, which will mean there are no longer any federal prison beds for women in the Northeast region of the United States. This transfer would dramatically disrupt the lives of these female inmates, many of whom are from the Northeast, and place them out of reach of their families and loved ones.”
The letter concluded with Senators Christopher Murphy, Kristen Gillbrand and nine other Senators posing a series of questions to Samuels that included:
Given the unique proximity of the Danbury facility to major Northeastern cities, why was it selected to be converted into a facility for men? And what facilities in the Northeast will be available for women currently at the security level housed at Danbury?
What are the home residences for the women currently housed at Danbury, broken down by city and state?
What percentage of the female inmates at Danbury have children under the age of 18?
Why was the Danbury facility selected to be converted into a facility for men, given that Aliceville was explained as needed to respond to overcrowding of women’s prisons?
How much will it cost to “convert” Danbury to a men’s facility? What different kinds of programs, activities, and facilities will be provided? What will happen to the current equipment or other items used by women?
Since some BOP policies suggest that family visits are one factor included when inmates are considered for transfer to less secure facilities, what role will visitation history play in the transfer of inmates from Danbury to Aliceville?
Given the 1997 BOP program statement on meeting the needs of women prisoners, and the June 19, 2013 memo committing resources and support to parenting and to “helping you prepare to reenter society,” what steps is the BOP taking to ensure women inmates transferred from Danbury to Aliceville continue to have contact with their families and are prepared for reentery, including the following:
Cost of communication (e.g., phone calls, packages)?
Cost of transportation to Aliceville?
Access to lawyers from their home districts to support keeping custody of children, dealing with migration issues, or questions on convictions and sentencing?
Access to education and reentry programs?
Access to work opportunities?
Access to residential drug and alcohol treatment programs similar to the ones currently offered at Danbury?
What will be the total cost of transferring female inmates to Aliceville from Danbury and moving male inmates into Danbury?
What information did you provide to Congress and when regarding this transfer project? (See Reentry Central August 5, 2013).
The transfer were originally scheduled to be completed by December of this year, but the Danbury, CT News Times reports that the transfers have been suspended, at least until the above questions can be answered to the satisfaction of the Senators.