Federal Prison Shake-up Has Judges Concerned

     BROOKLYN (CN) – A group of chief federal judges from the northeastern states have banded together to stop the conversion of a predominantly female prison in Connecticut to a mostly male facility.
     The federal government plans to convert the Federal Correctional Institution Danbury – which is the only correctional facility in the northeast for women – and relocate the 1,200 inmates to various facilities across the country.
     In their letter, the judges urged Attorney General Eric Holder to rework the plans, citing research indicating that regular visitation reduces disciplinary problems. Inmates are also less likely to recidivate.
     “We know that offenders who have regular visitation from their families are less likely to recidivate, and many of these women have young children,” wrote
     Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, of New York’s Southern District.
     “I think it’s important that these women be given an opportunity to rehabilitate their lives, and keeping them in a facility closer to home gives them that chance.”
     Preska noted that a “substantial majority” of women in federal prison have young children, and that 59 percent of them have a child under the age of 21.
     “Ensuring that inmates can stay connected to their families is important for all prisoners, which is why we frequently recommend that the defendants we sentence be housed in facilities as close to the Northeast as possible,” she added.
     “If the planned change for Danbury goes forward, our ability to recommend incarceration near family members and children for male inmates will continue, but we will have no ability to do the same for female inmates.”
     The female inmates at the facility will be moved to a facility in either Hazelton, W.Va., Philadelphia and Aliceville, Ala.
     “As the judges who will sentence women defendants in the future, we are concerned about the ability of future inmates to maintain these critical ties with children and family,” Preska wrote.
     FCI Danbury housed female inmates for 20 years, but prison officials began converting it back to a low-security male facility in August, according to a Bureau of Prisons website. Women are expected to be transported out by December. Men will begin arriving in late January or early February 2014.
     The change will not affect women in the Danbury Satellite Camp, near the prison and housing 257 minimum-security female offenders, the BOP said.
     Preska was joined in letter by judges Janet Hall of Connecticut; Gregory Sleet of Delaware; John Woodcock of Maine; Deborah Chasanow of Maryland; Patti Saris of Massachusetts; Joseph Laplante of New Hampshire; Jerome Simandle of New Jersey; Carol Amon of the Eastern District of New York; William Skretny of the Western District of New York; Christopher Conner of the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and Mari Lisi of Rhode Island.

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