Danbury FCI Union Rep Reacts to Senators Being Denied Access
Back in December of 2021, a rep (Robert Curnan) from AFGE Local 1661 at the Danbury Federal Corrections Institution joined our sister station to talk about how the union claims the Danbury prison is dangerously understaffed.
The union had purchased a billboard on Rte. 37 near the prison that read "Dangerously understaffed prison ahead, are you safe?" The billboard grabbed a lot of headlines from media around the state that attracted the attention of Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.
The two Senators were scheduled for a tour of the facility on Wednesday (1/26/22). Murphy and Blumenthal went on the tour but were not pleased when they were denied access to certain areas of the prison.
We reached out to our contacts with the AFGE Local 1661 and they put us in contact with prison Treasurer and union member Pat Wynne who agreed to come on the show and talk about the issue. Below is a partial transcript of our conversation with Wynne, the entire interview is available in the video player above.
Lou: Ethan, joining the show now is the Treasurer of Danbury FCI, Pat Wynne joins us on the show, hey Pat.
Pat: How you doing guys?
Lou: We're doing great, I want to just establish some background here, we spoke to a representative from your union back in December of 2021 about claims made by the union that the prison is understaffed. We saw that awesome sign that you guys put up on Rte. 37 about the dangerously understaffed federal prison ahead. I forget who we talked to what it Robert or Sean?
Pat: You probably spoke to both but that interview that you're referencing was Robert Curnan, that's the local's President.
Lou: Excellent, so now, you guys got a lot of press about claiming that you're dangerously understaffed, you can stop me at anytime if I'm wrong about any of this, there was a scheduled tour for Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy yesterday. They came by and they claim, they were denied access to certain areas in the prison and denied access to the prison themselves. Murphy said it's clear that a decision was made to stop them from seeing some of the conditions in the prison, how do you respond to that?
Pat: Uh, well yes, the entire executive board of the union, we've got about six people on the executive board, toured with the Congressman (Senators), but to get back to that sign real quick, yeah that sign created a ton of feedback from the community, local, state leaders and obviously our federal counterparts, you know the Senators that actually oversee the Bureau of Prisons. So, yes they did come into the Institution, they were not allowed to go to the Federal satellite low institutions which houses low security female inmates. And then, once we got into the federal correctional institution which is the low security men's prison, they also denied them access to the housing units where the inmates were under the guise of COVID and that is where Senator Murphy was extremely displeased because the whole reason for him coming was to meet the staff, about the understaffing issues and also see the effects of COVID on the actual institution itself.
Lou: When you say they denied access, who are we referring to and who makes that call?
Pat: The administration, the executive staff here at Danbury, the warden is the CEO here so she actually made the call to not allow the U.S. Senators into the housing unit.
Lou: So, there was a group decision made before their arrival?
Pat: Before their arrival, right. There was a pre-scheduled or pre, how would you say it? A tour was setup where the Senators wanted to go, so the union did their best to try to have them go into a couple housing units because that's what they wanted to see. They wanted to meet with some of the staff, to actually talk more about the understaffing issues, the low staff here at Danbury.
Lou: When you say they were denied access, that was COVID reasons, for their safety, is that what the prison is saying?
Pat: Yes. to help the spread of COVID is what they were...
Ethan: Did they (Senators) know that before they arrived at the prison?
Pat: Who, the Senators?
Pat: No, no they thought they were going to have access to these housing units, which they should have access to the housing units. Again, you've got to remember Senator Murphy, like he said yesterday is on the Appropriations Committee who frees up money for federal agencies and Mr. Blumenthal was actually on the Judiciary Committee that has oversight for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and I believe, the entire Department of Justice. So, they should be allowed access to any point of that prison.
Lou: So, forgive me Pat, I'm confused now, are you, is there a divide in the prison as to what they should, it sounds like you wanted them to have access?
Pat: Correct. The Union wanted them to see the way the prison operates during a pandemic. And, we wanted them to have access to our staff so they could see exactly how it feels when we are understaffed.
You can listen to our entire interview with Danbury FCI Treasurer Pat Wynne in the video player at the top of the page. In it, Pat expands on the divide between prison administrators and the union, the reaction of the Senators who were denied access and whether Ethan & Lou have fans in the prison.