Carl Robinson Correctional Institution, Enfield, Connecticut
April 3, 2020

Over 100 prisoners were transferred after they threatened to organize hunger strikes and work stoppages to protest the facility’s new rules aimed at avoiding the spread of COVID-19. The recently implemented rules limit the movement of prisoners and require them to eat in their housing units, instead of in common areas. In response to this threat on Friday, guards from “Correctional Emergency Response Team” forcefully removed prisoners from two housing units who they say were threatening to protest.

According to officials, the next day tensions flared amongst prisoners, leading to a fight that left three prisoners and a guard injured. Following the fight, 86 prisoners were sent to other, less populated facilities around the state. Another 19 prisoners were sent to Northern Correctional Institution, where they will have hearings on whether or not to to be placed in “administrative segregation,” or solitary confinement.

Northern Correctional, per CDC recommendation, is also being used as a quarantine zone for positive COVID-19 prisoners, due to its air ventilation system being similar to a hospital and the majority of its cells are “isolation units.”

About the use of Northern, Dan Barrett, legal directer of Connecticut’s ACLU said,  “It doesn’t answer any questions,” said Dan Barrett, the legal director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “The same problems can arise at Northern that are arising elsewhere: sanitation, proper medical care.”

As of April 9th, 61 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 and 47 have been transferred to individual isolation units at Northern CI. According to some those who oppose the plan to use Northern as quarantine zone, NCI has a reputation as a strict prison where rights are violated. Barbara Fair, an organizer with Stop Solitary CT, said “People are sent to Northern to break their spirit. It breeds mental illness.” Stop Solitary CT is group advocating for the end of solitary confinement statewide which has called for the closing of Northern.

The ACLU of Connecticut filed a lawsuit on April 3rd, calling for the release of prisoners “who are vulnerable to serious illness based on CDC heightened risk factors, being held pre-trial on lesser charges or low bond amounts, being held solely for technical violation of probation or parole, eligible for home confinement or supervised release, or within six months of the end of their sentence.”

 

Citations:

Fight erupts amid coronavirus tension at CT prison“, CTPost, April 6, 2020

CONNECTICUT CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS ASSOCIATION ET AL V LAMONT AND COOKACLU, April 3, 2020

State Department of Correction moves inmates with COVID-19 to Northern Correctional Institution, though quarantine questions persist“, Hartford Courant, April 10, 2020

 

Article published: 4/12/2020
Header photo source: Hartford Courant