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
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
"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
"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,
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
"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
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
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.
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