Acts of violent criminals do not justify harsh conditions in Connecticut prisons

For the editor:

RE “When discussing torture and punishment, remember the victims of crime”, February 9:

Robert Curt responded to my letter regarding solitary confinement in Connecticut. Yes, Mr. Curt, regardless of the definition of torture, including the one used by the UN Human Rights Committee Against Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur has twice cited Connecticut prisons , declaring that the torture was this: torture.”

I want to respond to the specific example that Mr. Curt used of the two men, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, who committed the heinous crime against the Petit family in 2007. This particular example of violent criminals is often used by white people in Connecticut when advocating for maintaining solitary confinement at the most extreme level. However, 80% of those incarcerated are black and brown with only 3% having committed violent crimes.

No one would object to the harshest sentence allowed for the two men who committed this extreme violence against the Petit family. However, these two men were transferred to medium security prisons in Pennsylvania. Here is the current reality of these two men:

Joshua Komisarjefsky, a 41-year-old white man, is being held in a MEDIUM SECURITY prison in Pennsylvania (Mahanoy), a prison newer than many prisons in Connecticut, built in 1993, accredited by the American Correctional Assoc. in 1996 and has successfully achieved accreditation every 3 years since. Something that none of Connecticut’s prisons have managed to do. The accommodations are both cells and dormitories. Programming includes both academic and vocational education, family/relationship work, special needs sex offenders, alcohol and drugs, mental health, video tours, and offense-related programs like “Thinking for change” with victim awareness and violence prevention, and employment opportunities within correctional industries.

Steven Hayes, a 58-year-old white man, housed at the Benner facility in Pennsylvania. The property offers cell and dormitory type accommodation. It is a “state of the art” MEDIUM SECURITY facility, dedicated in 2013, offering academic and professional training in plumbing, electrical, carpentry, hairdressing and business training with a law library at the cutting edge technology. Programs include family/relationship work, sex offender rehabilitation, alcohol and drug offense work, and mental health programs. This prison has a 19-bed infirmary and a subacute hospital with daily visits from doctors; psychiatric unit with crisis intervention and suicide prevention, and a full range of dental services. It also offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor recreational activities.

None of these men endure the atrocious conditions of Connecticut prisons. Both were transferred years ago which greatly improved their conditions as well as their tier status. They both went from death row in Connecticut to medium-security prisons in Pennsylvania.

Constantly using these men as an example to continue solitary confinement and justify the harsh conditions in Connecticut prisons is misleading, manipulative, and racist because none of these white men experience Connecticut’s harsh prison culture.

Anne Massaro
North Haven, Connecticut

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