Pubdate: Thu, 05 Aug 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register


Associated Press

HARTFORD -- A new poll shows that most Connecticut residents favor
rehabilitation over punishment of prisoners, but they want the state to
bring back chain gangs and mandatory psychological and DNA testing.

The Hartford Courant/Connecticut Poll published Wednesday found that 55
percent of those polled think the most important job for prisons is to
rehabilitate inmates, compared with 26 percent who think punishment should
be a top priority.

Those findings indicate a major shift in opinion from ten years ago when 38
percent chose rehabilitation and 39 percent favored punishment. In 1996, 42
percent favored punishment, compared to 40 percent who preferred

People want prisons to continue the complicated task of blending punishment
and rehabilitation, said G. Donald Ferree Jr., director of the telephone
poll of 510 state residents, conducted by the Center for Survey Research and
Analysis at the University of Connecticut from July 13 to 21.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

"Prison is not supposed to be a nice place, but it's not supposed to be too
brutal either," Ferree said. "Rehabilitation talks not only about saving a
person, but it also says that you presumably won't commit a crime when

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed supported reinstituting a chain gang
program, forcing inmates to work under guard outside prisons. The state
started a work program two years ago but discontinued it after several
months because it wasn't cost-effective, said Dean Pagani, spokesman for
Gov. John G. Rowland. The governor advocated a return to chain gangs during
his first campaign.

The public's growing interest in rehabilitation comes at a time when the
state has spent five years turning the focus in prisons from coddling
inmates to holding criminals accountable for their actions, prison
spokeswoman Heather Zimba said.

"A lot of people expect prisons to do what families couldn't do, what
communities couldn't do, what churches couldn't do, and I can't do
everything here that society couldn't," Correction Commissioner John J.
Armstrong said. "Programs give you skills. Can I rehabilitate an inmate? No.
I can give them the skills to improve their lives."

Seventy-six of those polled want DNA samples to be drawn from inmates.
Seventy-one percent said they want inmates to be tested psychologically to
learn why they broke the law.

That data would benefit investigators working to solve future crimes and
might deter an ex-convict from repeat offenses, but critics say such
measures would infringe on a prisoner's constitutional rights.

Seventy percent of those surveyed agreed that prisoners learn more about how
to break the law than about how to be law-abiding citizens when they are
released. Sixty-four percent said it is too easy for prisoners to be
released early.

Sixty-three percent support providing prisoners with facilities for sports
or weightlifting, while 26 percent want inmates to have television or stereo
equipment in their cells.

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