Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Haven Jail Conditions Ripe For Human Rights Investigation

Whalley Jailhouse Blues

Includes Audio Interviews
Via Link @ Bottom Of This Post

by Melinda Tuhus
New Haven Independent
November 14, 2007

This man spent three days at the overcrowded Whalley Avenue jail -- where, he said, inmates were urinating in the water fountain and sleeping in almost all the common areas.

Tommy Ventura, of East Haven was picked up on a probation violation from an original conviction for credit card fraud, for which he served nine months in prison. He said he was so horrified by the conditions in the state-run jail, "I'm thankful for my fiancée and my family to get the money to bail me out because I begged them and cried to them. That was the worst three days of my life."

The spokesman for the state's Department of Correction, beyond acknowledging that overcrowding exists, categorically denied Ventura's claims. A leading state legislator involved in prison issues said the contradictory claims could just be opposite sides of the same coin, of overcrowding.

Ventura's tale offers a peek at the day-to-day impact of the state's prison overcrowding problem.

He said the overcrowding had worsened drastically since he was in jail two years ago. He said cots have been set up in the cafeteria, the visiting room, the kitchen, the hallways. Fifty to 75 people were sharing one bathroom.

Ventura also charged that the overcrowding is a potential fire hazard, that inmates are sometimes given prison garb that is ripped or dirty, and that some of them are not getting proper medication. He complained that recreation is often canceled, that inmates don't get enough food, and that he didn't have a toothbrush or toothpaste while he was inside the jail.

Ventura criticized Gov. M. Jodi Rell for keeping those who are eligible for parole incarcerated -- even non-violent offenders -- in response to the July murders of three members of the Petit family in Cheshire. Two parolees are charged in that crime. That has led the prison population to surge from 17,000 to 19,000.

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