Published October 23. 2013 4:00AM
Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom recognizes the need for persistence and regional support to prevent the area from being forced to house a disproportionate share of ex-convicts released from a sexual-offender rehabilitation program in Montville. Complacency will do his city and the region no good. Unless municipal officials are howling, the Department of Correction and the private contractor handling the release of inmates from the program could well do the easy thing and locate many ex-offenders locally.
Concerns increased last month with reports that three former inmates had been moved into apartments in Norwich, a couple near playgrounds. The DOC has since relocated two of the men, but Nystrom said Monday yet another former client of the rehab facility was recently moved into his city.
Located on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correction Center prison in Montville, the January Center is a 24-bed facility that provides a transition from incarceration to community release. The goal is to reduce repeat offenses. It is a sound approach. However, it would be unfair for this region to end up housing a disproportionate share of these ex-offenders, and be subjected to greater risk when some do re-offend, just because the state put the facility in our community.
Montville officials had this concern from the start and negotiated an agreement with the state in October 2011 that states offenders would be released to their "home community or other appropriate location." The DOC points to that "other appropriate location" phrase to justify finding apartments in Norwich, rather than near the ex-cons' home communities.
There is no reason to expect Norwich will be the only focus for the housing. New London has similar rental stock of the type The Connection, Inc. finds attractive. It is contracted by the state to run the January Center and oversee release plans.
Mayor Nystrom appeared before the New London City Council's Public Welfare Committee on Monday to talk about the issue. He got a good reception and New London should join the effort demanding an equitable discharge policy. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments has requested that the General Assembly and local lawmakers review the discharge policies to assure fairness for the region.
Keep up the pressure.