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Prison Chief Backs Budget

Lantz Emphasizes Post-Release Help

February 23, 2005
By BILL LEUKHARDT, Courant Staff Writer

Since she became the head of Connecticut's prisons in March 2003, Theresa C. Lantz has worked to improve how the state prepares inmates for post-prison life.

On Tuesday, she told a state legislative committee that the money for more halfway houses, parole staff and programs to help inmates be productive citizens is working to help prisoners re-enter society.

"We have a very high-risk population. We just don't want to drop offenders back into a community without any help," Lantz told the appropriations committee. She was there to support the $1.2 billion budget that Gov. M. Jodi Rell has proposed for the Department of Correction for the next two fiscal years.

Lantz was one of several department heads to address the committee Tuesday as lawmakers review Rell's $15.3 billion budget for the budget year that begins July 1 and her $15.9 billion proposal for the 2006-2007 budget year. The current budget is $14.6 billion.

Lantz said she views her department as a type of public health service, especially because of the physical, psychiatric and addiction problems afflicting many of the state's 18,000-plus inmates.

"Corrections has turned into a health-care system," she said, noting that her department spends about $84 million annually for medical services from the University of Connecticut Health Center. But addressing the illnesses of prisoners often is key to helping them become functioning citizens when they are released, Lantz said

That's much better than the past practice of "being dropped off in a town and ending up in a homeless shelter," said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven.

During the discussion, Rep. Marie Kirkley-Bey, D-Hartford, said many constituents had complained to her that it's impossible to get a hearing from the state board of pardons to remove a criminal record.

"These are people who have been out a long time - 10, 20 years - and have gone to college. I'm told that maybe 20 people have gotten pardons in the last few years," Kirkley-Bey said.

What she sees as state indifference is causing a serious problem: Many citizens who long ago paid their debt to society are still blocked from good jobs because of their criminal past.

"Corrections is a new form of slavery for people of color," she said. "People lose job opportunities. We are keeping people poor."

Gregory Everett, the new chairman of the state parole board, told Kirkley-Bey that several hundred people have been pardoned in recent years and that the process is not as selective as she has been told.

About 70 ex-offenders received pardons last November and the pardons board is slated to hear dozens more requests on Feb. 28, Everett said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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