On May 13 and 14, 2008, major Connecticut media outlets described how a prisoner was stomped to death in MacDougall Correctional Institution's lunchroom. It was quick and awful—and the guards could not get to the melee fast enough to stop it. After learning about this human tragedy, I felt heavy hearted for two reasons.

First, after visiting MacDougall regularly for almost 17 years, I felt sadness for the institution's correctional officers. I have watched how, with every coming year, staffing and support resources have been diminished. These creeping cutbacks have kept committed officers from fulfilling all the correctional skills for which they were trained. As that happens, the officer morale goes down and prisoner lockdown time goes up.

Second, I have a close friend who eats in that prison lunchroom. He is also housed in a “pod” that is reserved for high-security...

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