Protesters say prison conditions terrible
AARON LEO firstname.lastname@example.org
Maria Tracy, of Bridgeport, holds a photo of her uncle David... (Brian A. Pounds/Connecticut Post)
BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport Correctional Center inmates are sleeping on hallway floors and on beds made of milk crates and cardboard because of prison overcrowding, protesters charged at a rally Wednesday opposing Gov. M. Jodi Rell's August suspension of parole for violent felons.
"I got a personal friend who just went in there" for a 2-year sentence, William Tracy said. "He's sleeping on a floor in a hallway." He wouldn't identify his friend.
Another protester said the inmate lunchroom and the gymnasium double as sleeping quarters.
The candlelight vigil of about 30 people took place outside the BCC, on North Avenue, on the Fairmount Street side Wednesday night.
Brian Garnett, Department of Correction spokesman, said the DOC has been "forthright that some of our facilities are crowded." But the state's prisons are "safe, secure and humane across the system," Garnett said.
Some of the protesters were relatives of David Tracy, an inmate who hanged himself in April 2000 after the state transferred him and 483 other prisoners to a Virginia super-max prison to alleviate Connecticut prison overcrowding.
They said Tracy was a non-violent offender who should have been in treatment. Nonviolent offenders make up much of the prison population, many on drug charges, they said.
Chris Cooper, spokesman for Rell, said the governor agrees that nonviolent offenders should be granted parole. Although the statewide prison population has hit 20,000 since the suspension,
Cooper said the population declined in the past two weeks to about 19,400.
The parole issue touches the Tracy family.
Tracy's brother, Thomas Tracy Jr., 42, of Success Village, said he has a felony conviction and has been on parole for the last 13 months.
He said he's been in jail 26 times in his life for drugs and drug-related crimes.
"Parole helped me get started," Tracy said. "Parole worked for me."
Aracelis Aquino, of Waterbury, said her brother has served 27 years for killing someone in a domestic incident. She said he's served his time and was on track for parole until Rell suspended the release of violent felons. She wouldn't identify her brother, who she said is incarcerated in Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.
The ban stems from two paroled burglars — violent felons — accused of forcefully entering the Cheshire home of Dr. William Petit and killing his wife and two daughters last July. Petit was severely beaten but survived. The men have been arrested and charged with the murders in connection with the incident.
On Tuesday, Rell proposed a three-strikes law for persistent violent offenders.
The protesters also opposed that proposal.
Groups including People Against Injustice attended the rally.
"Sister" Nikki Brown of the PAI disagreed with the governor, saying the suspension includes nonviolent offenders.
Regarding the overcrowding, she said, "They are human beings in there. They're not dogs and cats."
The protesters also called for programs to keep children off the streets and away from crime, and for counseling and treatment for people in and getting out of prison.
Thomas Tracy Jr. said he wants to help with a group he wants to form called TRACY, or Teaching, Rehabilitating and Counseling Youths. He wants to open a thrift store to help inmates just getting out and families of current inmates.
He said he regularly writes to inmates and urged more to write to him in Success Village at Building 57, apt. 238, Bridgeport, CT 06610. His telephone number is 331-6134.
Another protester, Barbara Fair, said they set the rally on Wednesday to coincide with visiting day.
More than 10 people had lined up at the visitors' entrance during the protest.