July 1: Concerns Over Prison Unrest Produce the State Department of Correction


Today in 1968, the Connecticut General Assembly voted in favor of consolidating the state’s prisons into a single organization, creating the State Department of Correction. Previously, every prison in the state had been independently managed, with its own Board of Directors, administrative staff, and policies for inmate behavior and rehabilitation.

This sweeping reform of the state prison system was brought on by several factors, including the obvious benefits of reducing costs and eliminating redundancies. In addition, a marked increase in prison unrest over the previous decade had legislators concerned that individually operated prison facilities might not be able to deal with full-scale riots. In 1960, 400 inmates staged a massive riot at the State Prison in Wethersfield that caused “tremendous” damage to the facility and was described in local newspapers as “the wildest eruption of the [Wethersfield] institution’s 132 year history.” To quell the violence, local firefighters and policemen and over 100 state troopers were called in to aid the overwhelmed prison staff.

As the new agency’s name implied, the Department of Correction also placed a renewed emphasis on prisoner education, treatment, and rehabilitation. From day one, the agency began implementing statewide standardized, comprehensive programs for adult education and, when needed, substance abuse treatment. With the creation of the new Department of Correction on July 1, 1968, Connecticut became the first state in the country to consolidate all functions related to state prisoners — from booking and incarceration to rehabilitation and parole — under a single, centralized state agency.

Further Reading

History,” Connecticut State Department of Correction website

Wethersfield Prison Blues,” connecticuthistory.org