A state Department of Correction policy to place former sexual offenders in residences in Norwich is unfair and a breach of faith. It appears the only reason the department is lining up homes in the city is that the ex-inmates were discharged in nearby Montville, after leaving the January Center there.
This policy directly contradicts assurances the region received after the DOC and Judicial Branch announced plans in 2009 to build the center. Located on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center, the January Center provides a 24-bed transitional program for convicted sexual offenders who are being released after completing their sentences.
The January Center proposal initially faced strong opposition in Montville, which only relented when the DOC and Judicial Branch made a series of commitments. Among them was the assurance that these ex-prisoners would return to their communities of origin.
Instead, in recent months, the DOC has relocated at least three of the sexual offenders into two Norwich group homes. It appears no one at the DOC bothered to inform Norwich officials about the policy.
By way of explanation Karen Martucci, director of external affairs for the DOC, said the majority of those released have no home to return to because they are essentially homeless. That is a rationalization and not a very good one. Each of these individuals lived in some community when they faced arrest and subsequent conviction. The deal was that the state would return them to those communities.
There is a need for a facility such as the January Center. Many sex offenders, particularly predators of the young, do repeat their crimes and return to prison. Having a program to reduce recidivism makes sense. Moreover, once released these individuals need a place to live.
Nevertheless, it is unfair for southeastern Connecticut, and Norwich in particular, to endure an unequal share of the burden just because the state built the January Center in the area.
A meeting is set for Friday morning at Norwich City Hall at which DOC representatives will discuss the program with local elected leaders and state legislators from the region. They need to find out how and why the state is pursuing this policy, determine the details, and demand that the DOC and judiciary live up to their prior commitment.
"This is an issue that we will not accept as a city," said Mayor Peter Nystrom.
He is right, it should not.