State must reinvest money saved by prison’s closure into programs for people harmed by mass incarceration
HARTFORD – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) will soon announce plans to close Northern Correctional Institution (Northern) by July 1, 2021. Northern, which opened in 1995, has long been the subject of sustained opposition from incarcerated people, their families, advocates, and lawmakers, as well as the subject of numerous lawsuits regarding its conditions. Most recently, last week, the ACLU of Connecticut, representing Disability Rights Connecticut, sued the DOC regarding cruel and unusual punishment of people at Northern. In 2020, in response to a letter regarding solitary confinement conditions at Northern, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture condemned the use of solitary confinement practices in Connecticut as likely tantamount to torture. Since its founding, Northern has disproportionately incarcerated Black and Latinx people, and more than 90 percent of people currently incarcerated at Northern are Black or Latinx.
The following is a statement from David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut:
“Northern is a monument to cruelty and systemic racism. In sum, it is a symbol of everything that is wrong with incarceration. Closing Northern would be a welcome, necessary, and important step toward moving Connecticut into a better future. It is critical that the state close Northern in a way that ensures it will never be opened again, and that the money saved from its closure goes toward programs and services to help people most harmed by mass incarceration. Since its founding, systemic racism means that Northern has disproportionately harmed Black and Latinx people, and the question of whether and how the state closes Northern is ultimately an issue of racial justice. While closing Northern would be a significant and vital step toward progress, made possible because of the bravery of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones, we also know that closing Northern alone is not the end of the work to stop the harms of Connecticut’s prison system. People are also still suffering in Northern today, and we will continue to fight for people incarcerated in Northern for as long as they remain there, including in our current lawsuit on behalf of Disability Rights Connecticut.”
The ACLU of Connecticut has twice sued the Connecticut Department of Correction regarding conditions at Northern – in 2004, in Office of Protection and Advocacy v Choinski and last week, in Disability Rights Connecticut v Department of Correction.