Sen. Kissel & Judiciary Committee Hear Bills to Increase the Number of Correction Officers

March 12, 2008

Legislature’s Judiciary Committee hears testimony on expanding the state’s prison guard ranks

State Senator John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, said that two bills he is co-sponsoring to increase the number of correction officers in Connecticut were brought before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee today for a public hearing. Sen. Kissel, who serves as ranking Senator of the Judiciary Committee, said that support is growing to add the new corrections officers in order to increase the safety within Connecticut’s prison system as well as the communities surrounding the state’s 18 correctional facilities.

“The state’s prison population has grown and we need to be absolutely certain that adequate staffing levels are in place to ensure the safety of our corrections officers and the safety of the public,” said Sen. Kissel. “This without question is a priority for the 2008 legislative session.”

Under the proposals (SB 668 An Act Concerning Prison Overcrowding, and HB 5096 An Act Increasing the Number of Correction Officers), funding would be allocated to the state Department of Correction for the hiring of an additional 200 correction officers by June 30, 2009. The legislation would also prioritize staffing levels at facilities that have seen the greatest increase in inmate population over the past year. Sen. Kissel also praised Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposal to add 125 correction officers as good starting point.

Last week it was reported that the state police are investigating two attacks on correctional officers at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers. Last month, there were three separate incidents between inmates at the Enfield Correctional facility and the Osbourne Correctional facility in Somers. Sen. Kissel said that these events shed light on the need for additional manpower.

During today’s hearing, representatives of the prison employee union indicated that a recent report conducted by the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee found that “front line” correction positions are more than 20% understaffed.

“This is a critical public safety issue. We cannot allow more violence against correctional officers to occur before we act,” said Sen. Kissel. “We need to be proactive to make sure all our state correctional facilities are as safe as they can possibly be and by increasing the number of correction officers we would be making a huge step in that direction.”