Oct 16, 2013
05:38 AM
The Connecticut Story

Protest held in New Haven against moving female federal prisoners out of Connecticut

Protest held in New Haven against moving female federal prisoners out of Connecticut

Peter Hvizdak

Greg Williams of the Yale Divinity School and the Seminarians for a Democratic Society, left, Barbara Fair, a New Haven community activist, center, and the Rev. Valerie Dixon of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Niantic and a volunteer at the York Correctional Institute, right, during a protest Tuesday at the Federal Courthouse in New Haven against the transfer of women prisoners from the Danbury Federal Correctional Institute.

Former prisoners, relatives of prisoners, clergy and other advocates predicted the movement of women out of the Danbury federal prison will lead to an increase in recidivism and further splintering of families.

Tamara Petro of the Multicultural Leadership Institute, who was among the protesters who spoke out Monday morning outside the U.S. District Court, had a personal reason to show up.

She said her sister, Stacey Petro of Branford, is incarcerated for mortgage fraud, leaving behind two small children younger than 6, whose care is split between various relatives. Petro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

More than 50 percent of incarcerated women have children younger than 21, according to the speakers.

The original plan was to move 1,100 female inmates to Aliceville, Ala., which has no nearby airport or train station, but hundreds are expected to go elsewhere out of New England.

The move has been opposed by nine senators, including Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn.

Blumenthal’s office Monday confirmed that, because of the government shutdown, none has been released so far to make way for conversion of the Danbury facility to a men’s prison, although they may have been transferred for other reasons.

“Research shows that having families have contact with one another during incarceration makes for better re-entry when that person comes home to their family. Separating generations and disrupting kids at developmental stages in their lives is crucial. ... I think the evidence is there. You just have to ... stop ignoring it,” Petro said.

She said 2.7 million children have a parent in prison, with 10 million affected in the past several decades.

The Rev. Valerie Dixon, priest associate at St. John’s Episcopal Church in the Niantic section of East Lyme, said the probability of a child with a parent in prison going to prison herself is about 50 percent.

“So anything that can be done to salvage those ties, to work with the mom in prison so she can go home and be a better mom, it is helping the next generation,” Dixon said.

Dixon said spending $1.1 million on the transfer “is money down a black hole. Anything we can do to promote successful re-entry is going to save money; it is going to save suffering and it’s going to save children.”

She said one of the reasons the prison population has grown is all the children that have been affected. Dixon is from “Faith Behind Bars” and works with the inmates at Danbury as part of her ministry.

The Rev. Paul D. Sinnott, associate to the bishop for the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the treatment of prisoners is a faith issue.

“It is time to do justice to our sisters who are in prison and who have been unfairly targeted to be relocated far, far from their families,” said Sinnott, who also noted the connection to recidivism.

Advocate Barbara Fair said the majority of prisoners are nonviolent drug abusers and ending the drug war would greatly reduce the prison population. She said the prisons were built for individuals who are a danger to society.

The transfers are expected to resume when the shutdown ends.

Danbury is the only federal women’s prison in the Northeast; there are 25 facilities for males.

For the full story, visit New Haven Register online.


Protest held in New Haven against moving female federal prisoners out of Connecticut

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