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Yale report and U.S. Senators criticize Danbury prison renovation delays

The Danbury Federal Correctional Institution
AP Photo/Douglas Healey

A new report says a delay in renovations at a federal prison in Connecticut may be affecting the welfare of some women prisoners. U.S. Senators from Connecticut and New York are calling on federal officials to speed things up.

The report from a law clinic at Yale University says planned renovations at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury are now expected to take 30 months. In the meantime, around 100 women have been transferred to more restrictive federal jails that don’t offer services like drug treatment.

Piper Kerman wrote the book “Orange is the New Black,” about her time as an inmate in Danbury. She told reporters on a call that she spent the last two months of her sentence in a jail like the ones the prisoners are being moved to.

“For myself, the difference between the conditions in a place like Danbury or any prison facility which is intended for long term housing and a federal jail is like night and day,” said Kerman.

“The impact of the physical constraint, the forced idleness and the sensory deprivation that takes place in a jail facility is simply not appropriate for any long-term stay,” she said.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal calls the delay in renovating the Danbury facility inexcusable and inexplicable.

“There was no additional expenditure required, it was simply a manner of repurposing or reassigning the money, so there is really no excuse for this delay.”

Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also signed a letter to the Bureau of Prisons asking for an updated timetable for the stalled work.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons says the agency is reviewing the letter and will respond as soon as possible.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.