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Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury

The Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury (FCI Danbury) is a low-security United States federal prison for male and female inmates in Danbury, Connecticut. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice. The facility also has an adjacent satellite prison camp that houses minimum-security female offenders.

Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury
LocationDanbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut
Security classLow-security (with minimum-security prison camp)
Population1,200 (220 in prison camp)
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons


FCI Danbury was opened in August 1940 with the purpose of housing male and female inmates.[1] It housed several high-profile political prisoners during World War II. Conscientious objectors, including poet Robert Lowell and civil rights activist James Peck, were housed there for refusing to enter the military draft in the early 1940s.[2][3][4] Robert Henry Best served most of his life sentence at FCI Danbury after being convicted of treason in 1948 for making propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis during the war. Screenwriter Ring Lardner, Jr., a member of the Hollywood 10, a group of filmmakers who were charged with contempt of Congress in 1947 for refusing to answer questions regarding their alleged connections with the Communist Party USA, served 9 months there.[5]

Beginning in the 1970s, the Yale Law School began providing legal services for prisoners at FCI Danbury.[6] As of the 2010s, Yale students and professors still regularly visit the facility.[7]

FCI Danbury became exclusively for female inmates in 1993.[8] This was because there was a lack of space for women in the Northeastern United States and due to the growth in the number of female prisoners.[9]

In August 2013, the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that FCI Danbury was going to be reverted to an all-male facility to alleviate overcrowding across the entire federal prison system. The female inmate population will be transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution, Aliceville in Alabama, which opened in 2013 and has over 1,500 low-security beds for female inmates. It was estimated that the change would be completed by December 2013.[10][11][12] However, female inmates were not transferred to other facilities until April 2014.

FCI Danbury and its camp were the only federal prisons in the Northeast which housed women, and the repurposing would further promote an imbalance of women's prisoner space within the BOP system.[7] In August 2013 11 senators from the Northeast sent a letter to the BOP director criticizing the move, since it would mean there would be no facility for female federal prisoners from the Northeast; the move would mean that all of the women would be far from their families and loved ones. In November of that year several senators announced that at FCI Danbury the BOP would install a new low security camp for women and convert an existing minimum security camp into a low security camp for women to remedy the issue.[6] As of August 2014 there was no timeline for the installation of the new women's facilities,[13] no new construction had yet occurred at FCI Danbury. U.S. citizens would be eligible for the camps, but non-U.S. citizens would still be incarcerated farther away.[6] As of that time there were no federal women's prisons left in the Northeast.[7] Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison writer Piper Kerman criticized the move in an op-ed in The New York Times.[14] A new $25 million women's facility was completed and began accepting female inmates in December, 2016.[15]

Location and facilitiesEdit

FCI Danbury is located in southwestern Connecticut, approximately 55 miles (89 km) from New York City,[16] 60 miles (97 km) from Hartford, Connecticut, and 150 miles (240 km) from Boston, Massachusetts.[9]

The facility is accessible to a MetroNorth station fewer than 4 miles (6.4 km) from the facility. Four Amtrak stations are within 30 miles (48 km) from the facility.[9]

The prison had at one point included athletic facilities such as a running track, a soccer field, handball courts, a baseball diamond, and a handball field, since there is a large amount of outdoor area in the FCI Danbury property.[9]

In 2015 former inmate Beatrice Codianni stated that "The camp is a dump" and that the facility was cleaned just before each time accreditation inspectors arrived.[17]


Prior to the facility's conversion it offered General Education Development (GED) programs, paralegal classes, a group therapy program for people with post-traumatic stress disorder called the "Bridge Program," and a residential drug abuse program. The prison chaplain, religious groups, and volunteer groups had offered educational and other programming. In addition, prior to 1999 the prison hosted a "children's day" so inmates could spend time with their children.[9]

Notable incidentsEdit

Deadly 1977 fireEdit

On July 7, 1977 at about 1:15 AM, a fire began in an inmate's clothes hanging on wooden pegs in one of the prison washrooms, and before it was extinguished about 45 minutes later, five inmates had died of smoke inhalation. The most significant factors contributing to the deadly fire were the presence of fuels that promoted rapid flame and smoke development, the failure to evacuate occupants quickly and reliably (the two primary exits were blocked by the fire and a broken key in a lock, leaving a narrow catwalk as the only exit), and the fire not being extinguished in an incipient stage. An automatic sprinkler system would have been the most reliable fire defense; however, even without automatic detection and suppression equipment, the fire safety system, with little expenditure of money, could have been more effective by revisions to emergency procedures in the fire plan. The Danbury Fire Department was not called until about 15 minutes after the fire's discovery because of a fire plan that called for initial use of the institution's firefighting resources, but the inmate fire brigade was never released from housing units and the institution's fire apparatus was never used. The ensuing public outcry led to several investigations and reviews of the prison's fire safety systems and protocols. A comprehensive program of fuel control, additional fire detection and suppression equipment, and training and planning sessions have also been established, not only at FCI Danbury but throughout the rest of the federal prison system.[18][19]

Correction Officer Michael RudkinEdit

In 2008, supervisory staff at FCI Danbury discovered that Correction Officer Michael Rudkin had been having consensual sexual relations with a female inmate. When questioned, Rudkin, who was married at the time, admitted to the affair and stated that it had been going on for approximately one year. An FBI and United States Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) [20] investigation revealed that Rudkin had sexual encounters with other inmates as well. Since it is illegal for prison staff to have sexual relations with inmates under their care regardless of consent, Rudkin pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a ward and was sentenced to prison at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman, a high-security facility in Florida. Rudkin was subsequently convicted in 2010 of attempting to hire a hitman to kill his former inmate paramour, his ex-wife, his ex-wife's new boyfriend, and an OIG special agent assigned to his case while at USP Coleman.[21] He was sentenced to 90 years in federal prison.[22]

In popular cultureEdit

The fictional Litchfield Prison in Upstate New York in the Netflix original television series Orange Is the New Black is based in part on FCI Danbury, where Piper Kerman, who wrote the memoir on which the series is based, was incarcerated in 2004–2005 after her conviction for money laundering and drug trafficking.[23]

George Jung served a sentence at FCI Danbury. His incarceration was portrayed in the 2001 film Blow starring Johnny Depp.[24]

The Weeds character Nancy Botwin serves time at FCI Danbury.[25]

The Suits character Mike Ross begins Season 6 of the television show in FCI Danbury.

In the 1995 movie The American President, Presidential Assistant Lewis Rothschild (played by Michael J. Fox) says "Say what you want. It's always the guy in my job that ends up doing 18 months in Danbury minimum security prison."

Notable inmatesEdit

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Leona Helmsley 15113-054 Released from custody in 1994; served 21 months.[26] Upscale hotel owner and leading real estate investor in New York City; convicted of tax evasion in 1989 for failing to pay $1.7 million in taxes from 1983 to 1985; known as the "Queen of Mean" for her tyrannical management style.[27]
Sun Myung Moon 03835-054 Released from custody in 1985; served 11 months.[28] Leader of the Unification Church; convicted of tax evasion in 1982; the United States v. Sun Myung Moon serves as a landmark case involving taxes and religious organizations.[29][30]
Lauryn Hill 64600-050 Released from custody in 2013; served 3 months.[31] Grammy Award–winning singer and actress; pleaded guilty in 2012 to not reporting over $2.3 million in income by intentionally failing to file tax returns for five years.[32][33]
Piper Kerman 11187-424 Released from custody in 2005; served 13 months.[34] Pleaded guilty to money laundering in 1998; authored Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison (2010), which chronicles her time at FCI Danbury; the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black is based on Kerman's book.[35]
Teresa Giudice 65703-050 Served a 15-month sentence; released on December 23, 2015 after serving 12 months.[36] Star of the Bravo television show Real Housewives of New Jersey; she and her husband, Joe Giudice, pleaded guilty in 2014 to bankruptcy fraud and mail fraud for lying to banks and hiding assets in order to avoid paying taxes on $1 million; Joe Giudice received 41 months.[37][38]
Alexander Salvagno 11212-052 Serving a 17-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2027. Former owner of Evergreen Resources, a fertilizer manufacturer; convicted in 1999 of ordering employees to handle and dispose of cyanide waste without required safety measures; received the longest sentence ever imposed for an environmental crime.[39]
Robert Lowell[25] ? ? Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry in 1947, was a conscientious objector during World War II[40]
Ardeth Platte[41] 10857-039 ? ?
Sister Ping (Cheng Chui Ping) 05117-055 Transferred to a facility in Texas, died in 2014 Ran a human smuggling operation from New York City and Hong Kong from 1984 until 2000, when she was arrested in Hong Kong, extradited back to the United States

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "Five Die in Danbury, Connecticut, Federal Correctional Institution Fire" (PDF). Fire Journal. March 1978. Archived from the original on 2016-02-07.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) ()
  2. ^ "Poet Robert Lowell sentenced to prison".
  3. ^ "Robert Lowell's Letter to FDR". Dialog International.
  4. ^ Pace, Eric (July 13, 1993). "James Peck, 78, Union Organizer Who Promoted Civil Rights Causes". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Severo, Richard (November 2, 2000). "Ring Lardner Jr., Wry Screenwriter and Last of the Hollywood 10, Dies at 85". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c Arons, et al., p. 2.
  7. ^ a b c Arons, et al., p. 7.
  8. ^ "Danbury federal prison to switch to federal inmates". The Day. February 4, 1993.
  9. ^ a b c d e Arons, et al p. 8.
  10. ^ "Women Moved From Danbury Federal Prison As Institution Goes Male". Danbury Daily Voice. August 6, 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  11. ^ O'Malley, Denis (October 19, 2013). "Inmates on the move at federal prison in Danbury". Danbury News-Times. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  12. ^ "FCI Danbury". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  13. ^ Aron, et al., p 3.
  14. ^ Kerman, Piper. "For Women, a Second Sentence" (Archive). The New York Times. August 13, 2013. Retrieved on March 27, 2016.
  15. ^ Ryser, Bob (December 2, 2016). "Federal prison reopening to women". The News-Times.
  16. ^ "FCI Danbury". Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  17. ^ Codianni, Beatrice. "This Woman Led the Latin Kings and Lived 'Orange Is the New Black'." Vice. June 15, 2015. Retrieved on March 27, 2016.
  19. ^ "The Danbury Prison Fire - What Happened? What Has Been Done To Prevent Recurrence?" (PDF). General Accounting Office.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Jury Finds Former Federal Correctional Officer, Now an Inmate, Guilty of Attempts to Kill Federal Agent and Informant". Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  22. ^ Hudak, Stephen (July 18, 2010). "Former federal corrections officer gets 90 years in prison for trying to arrange murders behind bars". Former federal corrections officer gets 90 years in prison for trying to arrange murders behind bars.
  23. ^ Cooper, Anneliese. "'Orange Is the New Black's Prison Location Isn't Real, But It's Not Entirely Fictional Either". Bustle. June 6, 2014. Retrieved on March 27, 2016.
  24. ^ Graham, Renee (July 7, 1993). "Weymouth's Wayward Son". The Boston Globe. p. 49.
  25. ^ a b Barry, Doug. "Real-Life Sister Ingalls Even More Awesome Than She Is on OITNB." Jezebel. August 4, 2013. Retrieved on March 27, 2016.
  26. ^ Bernstein, Adam (August 21, 2007). "Leona Helmsley, 87; ruthlessly ran part of hotel empire". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  27. ^ Goldman, John J. (March 19, 1992). "Leona Helmsley Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison : Taxes: The hotel queen must surrender on April 15. Her plea to remain free to care for her ailing husband is rejected". Los Angeles Times.
  28. ^ "Moon to Be Released From Danbury Prison". The New York Times Company. July 3, 1985. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  29. ^ "Moon Conviction Is Upheld by Court". The New York Times. September 14, 1983.
  30. ^ Blair, William G. (July 5, 1985). "MOON RELEASED AFTER 11 MONTHS IN A U.S. PRISON". The New York Times.
  31. ^ Botelho, Greg (October 7, 2013). "Grammy-winning singer Lauryn Hill released from federal prison". Cable News Network. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  32. ^ "Lauryn Hill starts prison sentence". USA Today. 2013-07-09.
  33. ^ USDOJ: US Attorney's Office - District of New Jersey. (2013-05-06). Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
  34. ^ Garcia, Catherine (February 23, 2015). "Orange is the New Black's Piper Kerman opens up about the catharsis of prison memoirs". The Week. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  35. ^ Humphrey, Michael. "Ex-Convict Piper Kerman on Her Hot New Memoir, Orange Is the New Black". New York Media, LLC.
  36. ^ Takeda, Allison (April 1, 2015). "Teresa Giudice Prison Photo Reveals How Much She's Changed as She and Joe Open Up About Her Ordeal". Victoria Lasdon Rose. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  37. ^ Nolan, Caitlin; McShane, Larry (March 4, 2014). "Teresa Giudice, Joe Giudice plead guilty to fraud charges; both face prison, while he could be deported". New York Daily News. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  38. ^ Strohm, Emily; Rayford-Rubenstein, Janine (October 2, 2014). "Teresa Giudice Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison on Fraud Charges". People Magazine. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  39. ^ "IDAHO MAN GIVEN LONGEST-EVER SENTENCE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME". US Department of Justice. April 29, 2000. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  40. ^ "Draft Dodgers and Dissenters," Time Magazine, November 14, 1943, p.12.
  41. ^ "The nun and the actress behind 'Orange is the New Black'." National Catholic Reporter. June 10, 2015. Retrieved on March 27, 2016.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit