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Niantic, Connecticut, is home to the only women's prison in the state. The original facility, "The Farm," as it was called, was a state work farm and prison for prostitutes, unwed mothers, and those of immoral character. The facility was active from 1918 to 1996. (Additions were made in 1930.) It was an unusually beautiful prison, but as a result of an increase in the number of women being confined and the recidivism rate of the drug addicts, which make up the majority of the inmate population, a new facility was built.

York Correctional Institute opened in October of 1994. With a population today of about 1,200 inmates, it is a level 5, maximum-security facility. The effort was made for a couple of years to keep both facilities operative, or so the Department of Corrections claimed to the Niantic population at that time living in a minimum to medium security environment. But that was not to be. The entire facility today is York Correctional Institute, maximum-security. It is divided into the East Side (called Niantic by the inmates) and West Side (the new facility); but visits, schooling, some counseling sessions, and most work duties are on the West Side. The East Side is where the original "Farm" buildings are located, and they are currently in use, but the plan is to continue to add buildings to the West Side and transfer all women to the new facility, phasing out the East Side all together. The objective is to use the East Side buildings to house male prisoners because the male population is bursting.

Regardless of your crime--breach of peace, domestic matters, prostitution, or murder--if you are a woman arrested and unable to make bail or convicted of a crime in Connecticut, you will go to York.

When inmates arrive, they are all housed together, regardless of the crime. The environment is very dangerous. Once they have completed the strip search, de-lousing procedure, urine tests, and have removed all of their personal property (York does not permit inmates to retain any personal property including undergarments), they are placed in a unit called Assessments, again mixed with other incoming prisoners, 2 to a cell. Inmates are permitted religious items such as rosaries and crosses, and also sneakers if they are plain white or black. (Other colors are considered gang related.)

The Assessment Unit is on a 21 1/2 hour lockdown. In this unit, the inmates are evaluated based on their crime and history and then sent to an appropriate unit as determined by a staff member. Inmates remain in Assessments between 2 days and several weeks.

Most non-violent inmates and those with shorter sentences are usually sent to the East Side. Others are placed in cells in units on the West Side in the general population, similar to the Assessment Unit, but which offer some privileges, such as having books, pens, pencils, paper, and purchased items from the commissary located in the facility.

The East Side consists of 4 housing units (South Dorm, North Dorm, the Davis Building, and Thompson Hall), the commissary, a meals (chow) hall, a church, and an administrative building with staff offices, most in support of East Side inmates. Currently, the East Side is still considered minimum to medium, but the staff has set the same lock downs as required for a level 5 facility. However, with permission, inmates may walk to their needed destinations unsupervised. The East Side buildings are locked, but the grounds do not have security gates, except those that surround the West Side, which the East Side inmates must cross for various reasons.

Because inmates must pass the gates into the maximum-security area in order to attend a visit or go to the medical unit, the administration made the decision to have one facility, York Correctional Institute, with the level 5 maximum-security requirements for all inmates. For this reason, it is necessary to phase out the East Side and move the inmates to the state-of-the-art security environment of the West Side. Soon, the East Side will no longer exist and then if you are convicted of an offense that the state deems worthy of confinement, be it a minor violation or mass murder, you will find yourself living in an environment with security features few male prisons have.