October 11, 2004
By DWIGHT F. BLINT , Hartford Courant Staff Writer
The Hartford Community Correctional Center on Weston Street is in the midst of a $17 million makeover that is expected to make it more secure and improve the living and working conditions for inmates and prison staff.
The facility has already received a new staff parking garage, a gym, interview rooms and a larger kitchen and bathrooms. It also received upgrades to its intake area, security fencing, internal security systems and control rooms. "We've moved from touch knobs to touch screens,'' said Lt. James Wilkins of the Department of Correction.
Over the next year, the facility will also receive new or expanded maintenance storage areas, administrative offices, medical and dental units, a visiting room, classrooms and a library.
"With this upgrade, everyone is getting a little piece of something,'' said Mark Rashawne, a facility engineer. Prison officials said the expansion and renovations come in response to the prison's growing population, the availability of improved technology and years of wear and tear. Their plan is to make the facility, built in the mid-1970s, comply with modern-day requirements. Lawrence Brunoli Inc. of Farmington is doing the work.
"In the 1990s, the population here was around 500,'' Wilkins said. "Now it's almost 1,000. We've been making it work, but unless you do something, it could become an unsafe environment.''
The improvements will not significantly increase the external size of the 170,000-square-foot facility. The 67,000-square-foot, three-level garage was built on an existing parking lot. The 11,200-square-foot gym and 10,600-square-foot kitchen were built over a courtyard inside the prison. Construction crews are turning the old kitchen into a large storage area for the maintenance department. It will also be used for classrooms, a library and offices. The work includes the addition of new sprinkler systems, electrical upgrades and security cameras. "So you can see we made the school better,'' Wilkins said.
He said the project has been difficult because prison workers still have to operate the prison and maintain safety and security while allowing construction crews, equipment and materials in and out of the building. "The staff needs to be commended. Change has not been easy, but they see what's coming down the road and they have been flexible,'' Wilkins said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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