Scope of Study
Approved April 11, 2000

FACTORS IMPACTING PRISON OVERCROWDING

 

The total number of pre-trial and sentenced offenders under supervision of the Department of Correction (DOC) dramatically increased during the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. As a result, convicted offenders were serving only a fraction -- in some cases about 10 percent -- of their court-imposed sentences. Throughout the mid-1990s, the supervised population began to stabilize and, also during this time, Connecticut completed (in 1995) an ambitious prison construction program. Over 9,000 beds were added to the existing inventory, and the judicial branch developed a new program of alternatives to incarceration for less serious offenders.

With the increased correctional system capacity, Connecticut then instituted a series of "truth in sentencing" reforms aimed at restoring the amount of time served by convicted offenders to more meaningful levels. Despite declines in both crime and arrest rates, the inmate population began, in 1997, to again increase and has continued this trend. The state's correctional system is now considered to be overcrowded with over 16,000 inmates housed in 20 facilities.

The department has no control over the number of offenders coming into its system and only has authority to manage, through early release, a small percentage of the inmate population; those sentenced to two years or less. DOC efforts to date to deal with the overcrowding situation have included the reopening of the DOC's Northern Correctional facility, double bunking most cells, converting or renovating alternative space at existing facilities into housing, and increasing the number of dormitory beds to accommodate the increasing inmate population. The department also entered into a one-year, renewable contract (October 1999) with the state of Virginia to send up to 484 inmates to one of its correctional facilities.

Responding to the prison overcrowding situation is not solely the responsibility of the Department of Correction. Each part of the criminal justice system -- the courts, bail commissioners, prosecutors, public defenders, probation, and parole as well as the DOC -- has a role in managing the growth in the inmate population.

AREA OF FOCUS

The purpose of the study is to identify and examine all of the factors related to the current prison and jail overcrowding situation. The study will focus on recommendations related to factors within the criminal justice system to address overcrowding issues. It will not consider changes to the basic legislative framework for criminal sentencing.

AREAS OF ANALYSIS

       Analysis of current and future criminal justice system capacity to house and/or supervise pre-trial and sentenced inmate population, including a review of projected population growth, the number and types of facility resources needed to adequately manage the offender population, and the use of out-of-state correctional facilities

       Analysis of crime rates, bail and sentencing patterns and practices, and the offender population

       Overview of Connecticut's sentencing policies, options, and programs, including eligibility criteria, time-served standards, jurisdictional authority, and offender supervision requirements

       Description of the roles and responsibilities of agencies within the criminal justice system that sentence, incarcerate, and supervise the pre-trial and sentenced inmate population

       Examination of criminal justice system efforts, both institutional and community-based, to manage the pre-trial and sentenced inmate population

AREAS NOT INCLUDED IN STUDY

The study will not include recommendations for change to the basic legislative policy on criminal sentencing.