Conn. (WTNH) — Allegations of unsafe living and work conditions in Connecticut prisons are a topic on the campaign trail in the race for Governor.
Standing outside a state prison in Cheshire – Republican candidate for Governor Bob Stefanowski lodged serious allegations about conditions inside.
Notably, air conditioners that guards told him have been broken in this heat wave.
“They’ve been complaining about it for months the air conditioning units are ancient they keep putting band aids on it they keep breaking down,” Stefanowski said.
Stefanowski – who was denied access inside – said guards told him there are only six showers for an adult prison population of nearly 1,162. He also said guards are understaffed working 16-hour days.
Photos of confiscated handmade shanks, and knives sent to the campaign by frustrated correction officers – Stefanowski said add to unsafe working conditions.
“When these type of weapons are out in the prison population – and the correction officer rightfully so complains about it the governor should do something about it,” added Stefanowski.
Governor Ned Lamont, who was on the campaign trail in Hartford, responded to the understaffing.
“We do have a lot of correction officers doing double shifts and that’s no fair to them and that’s why we are prioritizing getting more people hired as quickly as we can,” Governor Lamont said.
Lamont’s office said the makeshift weapon was found months ago and investigated.
The administration has budgeted millions in savings by closing one of the state’s 12-prisons.
Citing a lower inmate population – down to 10-thousand prisoners across the system from a high of 15,000 inmates five years ago. They add “routine maintenance is a regular occurrence.”
“There are no issues with the air conditioning at Cheshire Correctional,” Department of Correction spokesperson Andrius Banevicius told News 8. “All units are fully operational. Individuals under our supervision have regular access to showers at multiple times throughout the day.”
Banevicius added that “our maintenance staff ensure the routine upkeep of the facilities is continued on a regular basis and any concerns are addressed on site.”
Meantime, Lamont is concerned about hiring more medical nurses to care for inmates.
The incumbent described “giving bonuses to get more nurses into those facilities for reasons you can understand.”
Guards at the prison have pushed this Governor, with many refusing to get the mandated COVID vaccine and holding out on contract negotiations.
Stefanowski acknowledged the tension, noting, “I know the relation between the governor and the correction staff is not good right now, but this is not a vendetta.”
Stefanowski said should he be victorious in the Fall – he would run Connecticut’s prison system with a focus on rehabilitation for inmates not punishment as they try to re-enter society.
He suggested Governor Lamont do a number of things, including;
- perform a review of showers, HVA, food and sanitation.
- Allow media in to see conditions first hand.
- recruit for more correction officers
- give hero pay to guards
- get more access to healthcare for inmates which includes services for mental health.
Currently, there are over 3,000 Correction Officers employed by the State of Connecticut Department of Correction, to cover the 24/7 operations of 13 facilities.
Banevicius also said the department continue to be proactive in hiring new correction officers to ensure staffing levels are met on all shifts.
Since January 1, 2021, 345 new Correction Officers have taken posts, with an additional 62 graduates in September 2022.