The Federal Bureau of Prisons has agreed to make sure there will continue to be a low-security facility for female inmates in the Northeast, a coalition of U.S. senators from the region said Monday.
After announcing in July plans to transfer low-security female inmates at its Danbury prison - currently estimated at 1,337 - to a new federal facility in Aliceville, Ala., in order to make room for male prisoners, the bureau now plans to build a new low-security prison for women on the Danbury grounds, the senators said. The reversal came after Northeast senators raised concerns about not having a facility for females in the region and the fact inmates would be moved far from their families.
"We believe it made no sense to leave the Northeast without any federal facility for women," Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said in a conference call with reporters. "These women clearly did something wrong. That's why they're in federal prison. But their kids didn't. Their families didn't."
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who also participated in the conference call, said the bureau's plans additionally call for renovating an existing minimum security camp for women in Danbury. Ultimately, a total of 400 women will be held in two separate facilities in Danbury - about 182 in the new low-security prison and another 217 at the renovated camp. Most will be from the Northeast.
There are still plans to also move about 1,000 male inmates into the original Danbury prison.
Blumenthal said the new prison facility will cost between $8 million and $10 million and funding has already been appropriated.
"The Bureau of Prisons can proceed, literally, right away," said Blumenthal. Construction is expected to take about 18 months. About 100 women from the Northeast will be held temporarily at a pre-trial facility in Brooklyn, N.Y., during the construction.
When asked, the Bureau of Prisons did not provide a response to the senators' announcement, also made by New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Blumenthal credited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder with persuading the Bureau of Prisons to build the new facility for women in Danbury.
"Attorney General Holder was focused on this as soon as I raised it with him personally," Blumenthal said. "He was taken aback that the Bureau of Prisons had dug in."
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