Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury

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Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury
FCI Danbury.jpg
Location Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Status Operational
Security class Low-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population 1,200 (220 in prison camp)
Opened 1940
Managed by Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury (FCI Danbury) is a low-security United States federal prison for female inmates in Danbury, Connecticut. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp that houses minimum-security female offenders. It was announced in the summer of 2013 that FCI Danbury would transition from housing women to housing men with the female inmates transferring out between August and December 2013 and the male inmates arriving in early 2014. The satellite camp will continue to house female offenders.[1]

FCI Danbury is located in southwestern Connecticut, approximately 55 miles from New York City.[2]

History[edit]

FCI Danbury was opened in August 1940 with the purpose of housing male and female inmates.[3] It housed several high-profile political prisoners during World War II. Conscientious objectors, including poet Robert Lowell and civil rights activist James Peck, were housed there for refusing to enter the military draft in the early 1940s.[4][5][6] Robert Henry Best served most of his life sentence at FCI Danbury after being convicted of treason in 1948 for making propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis during the war. Screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr., a member of the Hollywood 10, a group of filmmakers who were charged with contempt of Congress in 1947 for refusing to answer questions regarding their alleged connections with the Communist Party USA, served 9 months there.[7]

FCI Danbury became exclusively for female inmates in 1993.[8]

In August 2013, the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that FCI Danbury was going to be reverted to an all-male facility to alleviate overcrowding across the entire federal prison system. The female inmate population will be transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution, Aliceville in Alabama, which opened in 2013 and has over 1,500 low-security beds for female inmates. It was estimated that the change would be completed by December 2013.[9][10][11] However, female inmates were not transferred to other facilities until April 2014.

Notable incidents[edit]

Deadly 1977 fire[edit]

On July 7, 1977 at about 1:15 AM, a fire began in an inmate's clothes hanging on wooden pegs in one of the prison washrooms, and before it was extinguished about 45 minutes later, five inmates had died of smoke asphyxiation. The most significant factors contributing to the deadly fire were the presence of fuels that promoted rapid flame and smoke development, the failure to evacuate occupants quickly and reliably (the two primary exits were blocked by the fire and a broken key in a lock, leaving a narrow catwalk as the only exit), and the fire not being extinguished in an incipient stage. An automatic sprinkler system would have been the most reliable fire defense, however, even without automatic detection and suppression equipment, the fire safety system, with little expenditure of money, could have been more effective by revisions to emergency procedures in the fire plan. The Danbury Fire Department was not called until about 15 minutes after the fire's discovery because of a fire plan that called for initial use of the institution's firefighting resources, but the inmate fire brigade was never released from housing units and the institution's fire apparatus was never used. The ensuing public outcry led to several investigations and reviews of the prison's fire safety systems and protocols. A comprehensive program of fuel control, additional fire detection and suppression equipment, and training and planning sessions have also been established, not only at FCI Danbury but throughout the rest of the federal prison system.[12][13]

Correction Officer Michael Rudkin[edit]

In 2008, supervisory staff at FCI Danbury discovered that Correction Officer Michael Rudkin had been having consensual sexual relations with a female inmate. When questioned, Rudkin, who was married at the time, admitted to the affair and stated that it had been going on for approximately one year. An FBI investigation revealed that Rudkin had had sexual encounters with other inmates as well. Since it is illegal for prison staff to have sexual relations with inmates under their care regardless of consent, Rudkin pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a ward and was sentenced to prison at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman, a high-security facility in Florida. Rudkin was subsequently convicted in 2010 of attempting to hire a hitman to kill his former inmate paramour, his ex-wife, his ex-wife's new boyfriend, and a federal investigator assigned to his case while at USP Coleman.[14][15]

In popular culture[edit]

The Netflix television series Orange Is The New Black is based on the memoir of former inmate Piper Kerman and takes place in a prison based on FCI Danbury.

In the first episode of Season 7 of the Showtime television series Weeds, the lead character, Nancy Botwin, is released from FCI Danbury after serving three years for manslaughter.

In a Season 7 episode of CSI: NY, entitled "Identity Crisis", it is revealed that the biological mother of Detective Jo Danville's adopted daughter, Ellie, is serving a long sentence at FCI Danbury.

In season 6 of the HBO television series The Sopranos, Phil Leotardo, a captain in the Lupertazzi Crime Family, remarks that imprisoned family Boss John Sacramone is "folding laundry in Danbury" in reference to FCI Danbury.

In the 2001 film Blow, cocaine trafficker George Jung, played by Johnny Depp, is incarcerated at FCI Danbury and meets Diego Delgado, a character based on Medellin Cartel founder Carlos Lehder Rivas. Delgado is played by Jordi Molla.

In the 1995 film The American President, White House aide Lewis Rothschild, played by Michael J. Fox, says "Say what you want. It's always the guy in my job that ends up doing 18 months in Danbury minimum security prison."

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Leona Helmsley 15113-054 Released from custody in 1994 after serving 18 months. Upscale hotel owner and leading real estate investor in New York City; convicted of tax evasion in 1989 for failing to pay $1.7 million in taxes from 1983 to 1985; known as the "Queen of Mean" for her tyrannical management style.[16]
Sun Myung Moon 03835-054 Released from custody in 1985 after serving 11 months. Leader of the Unification Church; convicted of tax evasion in 1982; the prosecution, United States v. Sun Myung Moon, serves as a landmark case involving taxes and religious organizations.[17][18]
Lauryn Hill 64600-050 Released from custody in October 2013; served 3 months. Grammy Award-winning singer and actress; pleaded guilty in 2012 to not reporting over $2.3 million in income by intentionally failing to file tax returns for five years.[19][20]
Piper Kerman 11187-424 Released from custody in 2005 after serving 13 months. Pleaded guilty to money laundering in 1998; authored Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, which chronicles her time at FCI Danbury, in 2010; the Netflix television series of the same name is based on Kerman's book.[21]

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Pirro, John (3 July 2013). "FCI Danbury converting back to men's prison". The News-Times. Danbury, Connecticut. retrieved 29 July 2013.
  2. ^ "FCI Danbury". Federal Bureau of Prisons. 
  3. ^ "Five Die in Danbury, Connecticut, Federal Correctional Institution Fire". Fire Journal. March 1978. 
  4. ^ "Poet Robert Lowell sentenced to prison". history.com. 
  5. ^ "Robert Lowell's Letter to FDR". Dialog International. 
  6. ^ Pace, Eric (July 13, 1993). "James Peck, 78, Union Organizer Who Promoted Civil Rights Causes". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Severo, Richard (November 2, 2000). "Ring Lardner Jr., Wry Screenwriter and Last of the Hollywood 10, Dies at 85". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Danbury federal prison to switch to federal inmates". The Day. February 4, 1993. 
  9. ^ "Women Moved From Danbury Federal Prison As Institution Goes Male". Danbury Daily Voice. August 6, 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  10. ^ O'Malley, Denis (October 19, 2013). "Inmates on the move at federal prison in Danbury". Danbury News-Times. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  11. ^ "FCI Danbury". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "DANBURY, CONNECTICUT - FIVE DIE IN FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION FIRE (FROM ANALYSES OF THREE MULTIPLE FATALITY PENAL INSTITUTION FIRES, 1978)". National Fire Protection Association. 
  13. ^ "The Danbury Prison Fire - What Happened? What Has Been Done To Prevent Recurrence?". General Accounting Office. 
  14. ^ "Jury Finds Former Federal Correctional Officer, Now an Inmate, Guilty of Attempts to Kill Federal Agent and Informant". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 
  15. ^ Hudak, Stephen (July 18, 2010). "Former federal corrections officer gets 90 years in prison for trying to arrange murders behind bars". Former federal corrections officer gets 90 years in prison for trying to arrange murders behind bars. 
  16. ^ Goldman, John J. (March 19, 1992). "Leona Helmsley Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison : Taxes: The hotel queen must surrender on April 15. Her plea to remain free to care for her ailing husband is rejected.". Los Angeles Times. 
  17. ^ "Moon Conviction Is Upheld by Court". The New York Times. September 14, 1983. 
  18. ^ Blair, William G. (July 5, 1985). "MOON RELEASED AFTER 11 MONTHS IN A U.S. PRISON". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ "Lauryn Hill starts prison sentence". USA Today. 2013-07-09. 
  20. ^ USDOJ: US Attorney's Office - District of New Jersey. Justice.gov (2013-05-06). Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
  21. ^ Humphrey, Michael. "Ex-Convict Piper Kerman on Her Hot New Memoir, Orange Is the New Black". New York Media, LLC. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°26′13″N 73°28′06″W / 41.4369°N 73.4683°W / 41.4369; -73.4683 (Federal Correctional Institution Danbury)