By Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Danbury is a low-security US
federal prison in southwestern Connecticut. When it first opened in 1940, it
was used to house male inmates. Since 1993, it has been housing only female
prisoners, but that’s about to change. By December 2013, all the female inmates
will be shipped to other federal prisons, such as a brand new one opening in
Alabama. Male inmates will begin moving into FCI Danbury by January 2014. Not
surprisingly, this transition presents some hardships for the female inmates
currently in FCI Danbury.

Image courtesy newstimes.com

Visitation
Difficulties

The female inmates from the Northeast likely have family and friends who
currently make the short trip to visit them. According to the CT
Mirror
, the move to other prisons, such as the one in Aliceville,
Alabama, will inconvenience the families of the 1,126 women in the low-security
federal prison. This is because it will take them about 1,000 miles away from
Connecticut. FCI Danbury mostly houses women from New York, New Jersey, and
surrounding areas, which is why the move to Alabama or other states is
predicted to be such a hardship for most of the inmates and their family
members.

Many of the inmates have children and spouses who regularly visit them at
FCI Danbury, but after the transition, they might not be able to without taking
a long car ride or even traveling by plane. Studies show that children of
inmates are already more likely to do poorly academically and display criminal
behavior themselves, and not having contact with their mothers simply worsens
the issue.

Increased
Recidivism Rates

Of course, the lack of visitation is likely to negatively affect the moods
of the women, causing them to become depressed due to the sudden distance from
their loved ones. But depression among inmates is just one of the worrisome
consequences of FCI Danbury’s transition.

The CT
Mirror
reported that studies have shown that incarcerated mothers who
do not have much contact with their children are prone to stress. Financial
difficulties can also add to this stress, so requiring them and their families
to come up with money to travel to the new prison may worsen the problem. High
stress among inmates can lead to higher rates of recidivism, which means the
upcoming transition to another state may be a major setback for both inmates
and taxpayers.

Overcrowding

The transition is due to a sudden shortage of federal prisons for
low-security male inmates. This is similar to the reason that the prison began
housing only females about 20 years ago, since there was a shortage of space
for female inmates at the time. In fact, according to the News-Times,the
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) operates more than 100 prisons nationwide. Yet just
seven of them house only female prisoners.

With Danbury closing to women, there are just six federal prisons left for
female inmates. Even with the new prison in Alabama, federal prisons that house
female inmates will still be at about 31 percent over capacity according to the
New
York Times
. In addition, this new prison is located in a rural area,
making the inmates feel more isolated than ever while being hours away from
family.

Uncertainty

The move to Alabama is a hardship for many female inmates, but what may be
even worse is that not every prisoner will end up there. In fact, the decision
will be made on a case-by-case basis, so the current inmates are not even sure
where their next home will be. This can be difficult for anyone, especially
inmates who have no control over where they will be living for years.

In addition, many prisons create relationships with the surrounding
communities over the years. This is often done through community service
projects, which involve inmates who may become attached to the community as a
result. Due to the transition of FCI Danbury, inmates will have to start from
scratch to build relationships with their new communities, wherever they might
end up.  

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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