Connecticut opens prison unit for young female inmates

NIANTIC  — A new unit at Connecticut’s prison for women that was formally introduced Monday will house inmates no older than 25 with the goal of steering them away from lives of crime.

The unit at York Correctional Institution in Niantic, which is modeled on a similar one at a men’s prison, will be open to inmates between the ages of 18 and 25 who are nearing the end of their sentences.

“This program recognizes that young people should not be defined solely by the mistakes of their past, but rather they should be recognized for their future potential as productive members of our society,” Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.

Older inmates screened and trained by the prison system will serve as mentors to the younger offenders in the unit known as WORTH, or Women Overcoming Recidivism Through Hard. The unit already houses 19 offenders and has capacity for up to 50.

“Public safety will ultimately be enhanced as these young women return to their communities with the necessary skill sets to become better mothers, daughters, employees, and neighbors — in short, productive members of our community,” Correction Department Commissioner Scott Semple said.

The model is a unit for young male inmates that opened last year at the Cheshire Correctional Institution.

State officials have other prison systems, including those in South Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts, starting programs based on the Connecticut model.