Violent Criminals’ Acts Do Not Justify Harsh Conditions in Connecticut Prisons


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To the Editor:

RE “When Discussing Torture and Punishment, Remember the Victims of Crime,” Feb. 9: 

Robert Curt responded to my letter regarding solitary confinement in Connecticut. Yes, Mr. Curt by any definition of torture, including the one used by the UN Human Rights Committee Against Torture, the UN special rapporteur twice cited Connecticut prisons, stating torture as “Deliberate infliction of severe mental pain or suffering may well amount to psychological torture.” 

I want to respond to the specific example 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 arguing for continuing solitary confinement at the most extreme level. However, 80% of those people incarcerated are Black and Brown with only 3% having committed violent crimes. 

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

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

Steven Hayes, 58 yr old white male, housed at Benner facility in Pennsylvania. The facility provides both cell and dormitory style housing. It’s a MEDIUM SECURITY “state of the art” facility, dedicated in 2013, providing academic and vocational education in plumbing, electrical, carpentry, barber shop and business education with a state of the art law library. Programming includes work on family/relationships, sex offender reentry, alcohol and drug offense related work, and mental health programming. This prison has 19 bed infirmary and sub acute hospital with daily doctor rounds; psychiatric unit with crisis intervention and suicide prevention, and a complete range of dental services. It also provides a wide range of indoor and outdoor recreational activities. 

Neither of these men are enduring the atrocious conditions in Connecticut prisons. Both were transferred out years ago, which greatly improved their conditions along with their level status. They both went from death row in Connecticut to medium security prisons in Pennsylvania.

To constantly use these men as an example for continuing solitary confinement and to justify the harsh conditions within Connecticut prisons is deceptive, manipulative, and racist because neither of these white men are enduring the harsh prison culture in Connecticut.

Ann Massaro
North Haven, CT