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Connecticut Legislators Announce Bill To Close 'Supermax' Prison

Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut.
Photo courtesy Connecticut State Department Of Correction
Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut.

A group of Connecticut lawmakers are again trying to close a controversial Supermax prison and put other criminal justice reform measures in place.

The bill would shut down and demolish Northern Correctional Institute by the end of the year. Northern has been criticized for its use of solitary confinement, including by a U.N. torture expert. The prison served as an isolation unit for inmates with COVID-19 from March to September of last year.

State Senator Gary Winfield is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We don’t want to put people into these conditions of isolation and segregation without having rules in place. Are we doing what we should be doing when we take on the responsibility of incarcerating people?” Winfield said.

State Representative Steve Stafstrom, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, agreed.

“Northern is basically the antithesis of all the progress we’ve made in this state over the past decade or so. It’s past time to close it,” Stafstrom said.

Winfield and other lawmakers pushed the bill unsuccessfully last year — even as Winfield’s police accountability bill passed amid protests around the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The bill would also establish an independent oversight committee for the Department of Corrections. Lawmakers are working on the bill with Stop Solitary CT, a criminal justice reform advocacy group.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.