Reimagining Prison
Date:  11-22-2016

Connecticut opens the gates to a prison for a look inside, and a look beyond incarceration
From the CT Mirror

Scott Semple sat in the prison chow hall and squeezed tartar sauce out of a packet to dress up a dry, rectangular piece of breaded fish. Inmates working the kitchen peered through the narrow slot from which every diner’s tray wordlessly emerged, each with a carton of milk, a fresh-baked roll and portions of fish, mac and cheese, corn and diced carrots, and apple sauce.

“They’re watching to see if I eat this,” Semple said, trying not to laugh. The correction commissioner picked up his plastic spork and dug into his first prison meal since his days as a warden. Up and down the row of fixed tables and stools, an economist, a banker, a teacher, a fire chief, a former city councilman, a church worker and others did the same, their introduction to how 1,400 men do time at Osborn Correctional Institution, a prison that opened 53 years ago in the same month as John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The three-hour tour Friday night was arranged by the Vera Institute of Justice, a national prison reform group that has found a willing partner in Semple, one of the correction officials trying to broaden the role of rehabilitation in the U.S., the nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. One of Vera’s more modest goals in its Reimagining Prison campaign is demystifying life behind bars.

“This part of Reimagining Prison is about transparency,” said Sarah Lustbader, a former public defender in the Bronx, now with Vera. “What we want to get out of it is to normalize the idea that prisons are part of the community, and you as a community member should be able to go into your local facility and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ For a long time, and this was by design, for 200 years about, prisons have been walled off from society.” Read more >>