The threat has been hanging in the air for months, but now it’s official. As a budget-cutting measure, the state plans to close Bergin Correctional Institution, the minimum-security prison located on Route 44 in Storrs-Mansfield, CT, according to Michael P. Lawlor of the CT Office of Policy and Management.
Employees, numbering more than 200, had already received pink slips and were told the prison could close July 1, in the event that negotiations with labor unions – representing all state employees – failed.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has claimed that if labor unions agreed to his demand for concessions, this would cut costs by a total of $1.6 billion over two years.
Steps like closing some prisons – and cutting Educational Cost Sharing Grants and other aid to cities and towns – as well as thousands of layoffs are supposed to make up for a $700 million deficit.
Plans are to relocate Bergin’s 900-plus inmates to other facilities – including one that is currently for women only – and close the Mansfield buildings by mid-August.
The prison is part of state-owned property in the town of Mansfield that is included in the PILOT grant (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) that helps support the town’s budget. University of Connecticut property also is a part of that formula.
Rep. Gregory Haddad has said that closing the prison shouldn’t affect the PILOT payments because the state would still own the property.
The prison originally opened on March 13, 1989 as a “pre-release center” for those who qualified for “Level 2″ classification and coming to the end of their sentence. It offers substance-abuse treatment, literacy instruction and other programs to help the offender make the transition back into society.
The original population was 248 male inmates who were incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, or who had completed a specified percentage of their sentence without incident, had successfully completed furloughs and met other requirements. The originally agreed-upon population cap was 350 inmates and there were to be no sex offenders at this site.
Contrary to widespread belief that the prison housed only embezzlers and the like, the prison has housed those serving time for manslaughter and other violent crimes.
The prison was closed once before, in 1997 when its 350 inmates were redistributed to other facilities, again as a cost-saving measure. But it was re-opened two years later because of a need for more beds and the population rose to 500. Around this time, barbed wire was added to the top of the prison fences.
By February of 2001, when the prison was renamed the Donald T. Bergin Correctional Institution, it had an average inmate population of 650. And today, that number is more than 900.
Posted June 28, 2011
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