By: Caroline Tien via CT Insider
ENFIELD — One of the state’s 20 correctional institutions will shut down this spring as the prison population continues to drop.
The Willard Correctional Institution at 391 Shaker Road in Enfield is scheduled to close its doors by April 1, according to a statement released by the Office of Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday afternoon. Lamont attributed the decision to a significant decline in inmate numbers and a resulting need to downsize.
“Because spending millions annually to operate facilities for a population that is significantly smaller than just a few years ago is not a good use of taxpayer money, Connecticut is continuing to right-size its correction system to concentrate resources more effectively,” Lamont said in the statement.
Eliminating Willard is expected to save taxpayers approximately $6.5 million in annual operating costs, according to the statement.
The move was hailed by criminal justice reform advocates as “the right thing to do.” Lorenzo Jones, co-executive director of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said that it was “a testament to decades of organizing in Connecticut to end mass incarceration.” But, he added, closing Willard wasn’t enough.
“Lamont needs to take the necessary next steps here,” Jones said. “First, the savings from this prison closure must be invested in the Black, Brown and low-income communities most harmed by criminalization and mass incarceration in our state.”
Second, Jones said, “Lamont should cut the size of the Dept(.) of Corrections and shutter more prisons.”
Between 2012 and 2022, the number of people incarcerated in Connecticut decreased by 44%, according to the statement. In that time, the violent crime rate and the property crime rate decreased by 43% and 29%, respectively, the statement said.
Several other state correctional facilities have preceded Willard in closing, including the Radgowski Correctional Center in October 2021 and the Northern Correctional Institution in June 2021, according to the statement. Willard currently houses approximately 260 male offenders and employs approximately 71 staff members, the statement said.
Offenders will be transferred to other state correctional institutions in the coming weeks, according to the statement. Employees will be redeployed to other area correctional institutions in the coming months, the statement said.
“There is a great deal of work that goes into closing a correctional facility,” Angel Quiros, commissioner of the state Department of Correction, said in the statement. “From the staff to the incarcerated population, there are a lot of moving parts. Thanks to the professionalism of our staff, I have no doubt that the job will get done in a methodical and seamless manner, just as we did with the Radgowski and Northern facilities.”
Willard opened in 1990 and was named in honor of 19th century Connecticut prison warden William Willard, according to the state Department of Correction.