Written by Dirk Perrefort News-Times|January 31, 2017|News

Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Following an outcry over the plan to move female prisoners from the only federal women’s lockup in the Northeast, the Bureau of Prisons is now considering keeping some female prisoners housed at the Federal Corrections Institute in Danbury, officials said.

DANBURY - Federal officials have confirmed that the last of female prisoners bound for Danbury have been transferred back to the Federal Corrections Institute as a long-delayed construction project nears completion.

Justin Long, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, said the transfer began last month and was recently completed. But only a handful of the more than 1,100 women transferred out of the prison in a controversial move three years ago returned.

“Many of the original inmates who were moved out of Danbury have already been released from Bureau of Prisons custody,” Long said.

According to the prison bureau website, about 1,045 inmates are housed at the Danbury facility, including 78 women in the female portion of the prison. It was formerly a women’s prison, made famous by the occasional celebrity inmate and the hit book and television series, “Orange is the New Black.”

The Bureau of Prisons was criticized in 2013 after announcing plans to turn the low-security prison, which had served women for the previous 20 years, into a men’s facility. When both prison advocates and federal lawmakers expressed concern that female inmates would be placed far away from their families, the bureau agreed to rethink its plans.

Federal officials agreed to build a new women’s facility on the site, and construction began in 2015. The project was expanded in May 2016 when officials decided to add a building for inmate programs, space for health services, a new visiting area and office space. The combined cost of the projects was about $24.6 million.

Long said this week that the new facility will eventually house around 200 female inmates.

Women transferred out of the Danbury prison in 2013 were moved to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. - a jail that wasn’t designed to house long-term inmates. Many advocates complained about the conditions at the jail, including inadequate medical care.

Members of the National Association of Women Judges, who visited the Metropolitan Detention Center in June, described the conditions that prisoners face as “unconscionable,” noting at least one inmate hadn’t seen her children and elderly mother in more than a year, and most hadn’t seen daylight since they were transferred from Danbury three years ago.

“These women had all but given up hope that things would get better,” their report stated. “The lethargy was almost palpable.”

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