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Press Release – #CutShutINVEST Start of Session, 2.8.2022

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, February 8th, 2020

Contact:  

Yonah Zeitz, yonah@katalcenter.org | (347) 201-2768

Follow on Twitter @KatalCenter | #CutShutINVEST

As CT General Assembly Convenes for 2022 Session, People Directly Impacted by Mass Incarceration Demand Real Reform

Katal Center Calls Upon Lawmakers to Cut Correctional Population, Shut Down More Prisons, and Invest in Real Safety — Housing, Health Care, Jobs, Education

Hartford, CT— Tomorrow, the CT General Assembly convenes for the 2022 legislative session, and directly impacted people are mobilizing to demand real reforms to address mass incarceration and systemic racism. Communities of color in Connecticut – especially Black and Latinx people – have been targeted by systemic racism, mass criminalization, and mass incarceration. The government is spending millions every year to arrest and lock people up – disproportionately people of color — while failing to invest enough into the basic needs of every community in our state – housing, health care, education, jobs. The state department with the most staff in Connecticut is the Department of Corrections, which has, for instance, twice as many staff as the Department of Transportation. Since 2017, Connecticut’s prison population has dropped by nearly 6,000 people—a historic decrease driven by community demands for reform. But only three prisons have been shut down during this period, and the size of the Department of Corrections (DOC) has not been reduced, costing taxpayers millions.

In 2021, under pressure from community members and advocates statewide, CT made progress in the fight to end mass incarceration: elected officials announced the closure of three prisons, two of which were shut in 2021: the state’s only supermax, Northern Correctional Institution, in Somers; and the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center, in Montville. Cannabis legalization, with equity provisions, was finally passed. Prison phone calls were finally made free, ending an exploitative practice of charging families exorbitant fees to talk with their incarcerated loved ones. A narrowed ‘clean slate’ bill was passed.

But much more remains to be done. For instance, the General Assembly passed the PROTECT Act to end solitary confinement in CT prisons, but Gov. Lamont vetoed the bill. Lawmakers have yet to address the crisis of COVID-19 in prisons and jails, and incarcerated people keep dying, five more since the start of this year alone. Some Connecticut lawmakers and other officials have recommended antiquated “juvenile justice” policies that will harm young people and adults across the state, while others have proposed re-opening prisons for young people.

These items, and much more, must be addressed in the 2022 legislative session. Community groups and directly impacted people are calling on the General Assembly and Governor Lamont to cut, shut, and invest:

  • Cut the number of people incarcerated in jails and prisons, cut the number of people on probation and parole, cut the number of correctional staff, cut down the funding to the Department of Corrections
  • Shut down more prisons
  • Invest in the communities most harmed by systemic racism and mass incarceration, into housing, healthcare, education, jobs, and more.

By cutting correctional budgets and shutting prisons, hundreds of millions can be invested into community needs that actually produce safety and justice. Now is the time for real action to end mass incarceration and advance racial justice in Connecticut.

Quotes from directly impacted people and community group: 

Tiffany Minakhom, Member of the Katal Center said:Every death within DOC custody is state sanctioned murder. If our elected officials led with humanity and compassion, all 29 deaths would have been prevented. Although no environment created to detain a human being will ever be safe, #CutShutINVEST calls for a comprehensive plan to protect those who are currently incarcerated and those who are returning back to their communities. It’s time we envision a world where everyone’s needs are met and that time is now.”

Jason Wasserman, Member of the Katal Center, said: “Unless they know someone who is incarcerated, the average Connecticut resident has no idea how our tax dollars are used to perpetuate mass incarceration and inflict maximum punishment on our neighbors. At Katal, our #CutShutINVEST campaign highlights that there is a better way and that we must redirect resources into creating a more just world that treats all people with dignity. It’s easy and lazy to blame individuals for systemic problems and lock people away for years. A more civilized, and frankly safer, approach is to address the root causes and rebuild our communities.” 

Vicky Sztantyr, Member of the Katal Center, said: “Cut, shut, and invest is important to me because it is necessary that we move away from the prison industrial system to caring for our communities. Investing in school programs, employment programs, and lowering poverty will in the long run lower “crime” or actions that could lead someone in the justice system.”

Quashonada Ashley, Member of the Katal Center said: “Reduce Prison Population. Invest in the community instead, everybody wins.” 

Lynn Ofori, Member of the Katal Center said:The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, a multi- billion dollar penal system run on a foundation of racism and economic exploitation. The system is inhumane and fails in its supposed goal of discouraging crime and making society ‘safer’. In fact our carceral system destabilizes BIPOC and low income communities and families. We need substantial criminal justice reform now, highlighting sentence reform, alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice. If we actually want safe and healthy communities, we need meaningful criminal justice reform that will free citizens from cages and shut aging and unhealthy facilities. This will allow us to move the money currently wasted propping up this failed, dehumanizing system and instead reinvest it into community initiatives. This will strengthen families and neighborhoods, while also implementing a holistic approach to preventing crime.”

Nancy Peters, Member of the Katal Center said: “Ten years ago Connecticut had over 16,000 people incarcerated and a DOC staff of about 6,000. Today, thanks to the unrelenting advocacy of our justice-minded community, about 7,000 fewer people are locked in cages, yet the DOC has about 1,000 more staff on the payroll. This is outrageous! I am ashamed to have my tax dollars spent on the cruel and racist practice of locking disproportionately Black, Brown and poor people in cages, which neither increases safety or prevents crime, but merely punishes. Instead, I insist that my money be spent within those communities most impacted by the criminal legal system, on things that are sorely needed in these communities and that have been proven to reduce crime and increase safety—things like health care, education, employment, housing, and youth programs. So in the name of common sense, I implore my elected representatives to pass #CutShutINVEST legislation—measures that reduce the number of incarcerated people and DOC staff, shut down prisons and jails, and invest the savings in things that will give all people equal access to the necessities for living productive, healthy lives.”

Claudia Cupe, Member of the Katal Center said: “Rehabilitation does not exist at all in the prison system, I believe all they want are bodies incarcerated in these institutions because it makes them money. The prison system does not want people to be rehabilitated, this is evident in the way they exploit their labor for as little as $22 a month. When I think about my loved ones that are incarcerated, like my cousin at MacDougall Correctional Facility, he’s completed 80% of his bid but hasn’t been released despite the 70% minimum. On top of COVID-19, this is a death trap for people incarcerated, 29 people have died since the beginning of the pandemic. We need to release people early, especially people who are pregnant and immunocompromised. It’s evident that this system takes advantage of young Black and brown people. We need program alternatives that will properly support people in the process of re-entering society regardless of their offenses along with supporting their mental and emotional health. Lastly, I strongly believe that human beings are not supposed to live in isolation and solitary confinement is the absolute worst thing you can do to a human. We are not built to experience isolation. There’s no way you can truly rehabilitate someone with this prison system. How can we truly help people with these practices?”

Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “Racial disparities in Connecticut’s criminal legal system are getting worse by the day. This inhumane system has been compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused dozens of preventable deaths of incarcerated people, and COVID-19 continues to spread in state jails and prisons. Governor Lamont and legislative leaders have claimed they believe Black Lives Matter, yet have done next to nothing to end a system that targets, criminalizes, and incarcerates Black people. We need action, not hollow proclamations. To address mass incarceration and systemic racism, Connecticut must: Cut down the number of people in our prisons and jails, Shut down the prisons, and Invest in communities the things people need like housing, healthcare, jobs, and education. We demand that in the 2022 short session, the General Assembly and Gov. Lamont must prioritize bills to address systemic racism and mass incarceration.” 

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