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Rocky Hill Corrections Officer Gives Unique View Of Proposed Prisoner Nursing Home

Mike Lombardo has seen a lot in his 15-year career and says this location is a recipe for disaster.

 

Rocky Hill resident Mike Lombardo has a unique perspective on the controversial proposal to put a nursing home here for terminally ill and mentally incapacitated state prisoners.

Lombardo lives here with his wife and son, three minutes from the proposed facility. He's also a corrections officer with the state's Department of Corrections and is a union rep for AFSCME local 1565-np-4 correctional officer bargaining unit.

In short, Lombardo thinks the proposed nursing facility is a bad fit for the neighborhood and the town.

"There are a number of reasons that this is wrong in this space but my biggest fear is that they are using private security that is untrained and unskilled and doesn't have the mandatory training in dealing with these prisoners," Lombardo said. "People will visit these prisoners at the home. If they visit at a correctional facility they have to go through a background check and we have a K-9 drug sniffing dog they have to pass by. Most visitors are compliant but what about the ones that aren't. They won't have a K-9 unit there. I would bet they don't have an emergency response plan and what is their chain of command. It is a huge recipe for disaster."

There has been much discussion and outcry against the proposed nursing home at 60 West St. in Rocky Hill. Neighbors and residents don't want it because they fear it is really more of a prison and not a nursing home as the state has proposed. Town officials do not want it because they say the state superceded local zoning rules to allow it to operate in a residential neighborhood.

Lombardo said just because these prisoners are at the end-of-life stage or are mentally incapacitated, doesn't mean there's no potential for problems.

"All if takes is one person to tip something off," the Berlin native said. "Can you imagine if these people are in pain at end of life? Do you think their family won't try to sneak some drugs to them to ease the pain. I have seen 'lifers,' people who have been in and out of the criminal justice system their whole lives and most of them are dependent on drugs or alcohol. The narcotics have ruined their lives. They have to have it. So how will this private security team deal with this issue? And the state says these people will be incapacitated. I have seen firsthand, the older you get the wiser you get. I have seen old men take down younger men because they were smart. It can happen and might happen here. Are they willing to say the private security and that facility can guarantee these prisoners won't escape and what happens if they do? What is the plan then?"

He also disputes the state's calculation that the facility will need 500 beds for end-of-life prisoners. He doubts there are that many prisoners in the system who would qualify to be sent to the new home. To qualify for end-of-life status, prisoners must be within six months of dying. He said each prison right now has an infirmary and a wing at the UConn Medical Center to handle some of these prisoners.

"This is the state's foot in the door to for privatization over our bargaining unit. I can't tell you what the future holds, but in my opinion this is what that is. I am three minutes away, but I feel terrible for those people that live right next to the facility."

Lombardo, who grew up in Berlin, says other towns should sit up and take notice.

"If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere," he said. "I would hate to see it happen in my hometown of Berlin. The mayor of Rocky Hill sent a letter to the mayors of all the towns in Connecticut letting them know about this. It just makes no sense.

"There are two prisons that were closed in Mansfield and Cheshire. Why not re-open one or both of them and put these 500 beds there? At least the facility would be more secure with fencing and a big area away from residents. The simple answer is the state doesn't want to pay for the labor.

"The state is saying this facility is sovereign to zoning because it is an extension of a state agency and acting on behalf of the state. If they can say that here, they can say it anywhere so other towns should really be watching this case."

Kathleen Karlson March 04, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Awesome letter Mr. Lombardo. Well said and so true. This is just plain common sense. So why can't the politicians see this ? If they can't see the danger from the eyes of a prison officer then they're more blind then I ever thought. When will someone over Governor Malloy FINALLY LISTEN and act on this matter. My experience with "security guards in a nursing home is they have no clue what to do in case of a disaster. This again is all about the money and the greed of some politicians in this state. You're also correct sir that other cities NEED to take action with the Rocky Hill residents before they find themselves in the same situation. I have written letters to the Newtown Bee and the Hartford Current and many other papers asking people to join in on this journey to save the children and families of Rocky Hill. I was very surprised to not see anyone from my town, Sandy Hook not respond after what happened here in Dec. We NEED to join together just as people here did that horrible day. Stand up to what we as citizens should be doing, TAKING BACK CONTROL of the safety of OUR CHILDREN. God Bless each of you who are standing up for this cause, may God bring peace to Rocky Hill once again and protect the little children who play in that park and live so close to danger. Again thanks Mr Lambardo for your wise and accurate letter.
Jaclyn Farnham March 04, 2013 at 02:23 PM
We have a suspicion that the inmates are already paroled and therefore that is why there are no fences going up. There could be little or no security and these parolees may be able to come and go. The law uses the word "transitioning". I wish there was some clarification from the DOC about who is going in there. It could happen any day now. We have to start talking about safety, neighborhood watches, working with police, etc. Not only is Elm Ridge Park, which is passive recreation across the street, but there are two playground, Moser Elementary School, and the trails in Dinosaur State Park are REALLY close. This is dumb. Those who are behind this should be ashamed of themselves. You KNOW what the statistics are for repeat offenders?!!
Jaclyn Farnham March 04, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Kathleen - Thank you for posting and spreading the word. My prayers to you and everyone affected by the Newton tragedy.
Ralph O'Connor March 04, 2013 at 02:43 PM
I appreciate the previous poster's emotional comments but this deal has nothing to do with what's right verse what's wrong. This is a behind the scenes deal where one of Gov Malloy's top donors is getting "pay back" for his support. The developer purchased the land and building outright. He then went to Malloy and proposed this business deal. Malloy is now shoving this thing down the throats of Rocky Hill residents. Everyone can complain all they want about how this is bad for the community, just remember, it's about money, not about doing the right thing.
Mike M March 04, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Anyone know why there always seems to be a Rocky Hill police car down at the end of the driveway already? I'd be interested to hear what our police department thinks about this from the point of public safety.
Harry March 04, 2013 at 03:03 PM
Malloy and company could care less about public safety in this effort. This is about one thing and one thing only. 6 million dollars they might be able to get there hands on, in the form of federal reimbursements. Like Mike is saying in this article, these private security guards will not be trained to deal with these very dangerous felons. Think of it this way, yesterday they may have been escorting women to there cars in a mall parking lot and today that are security at a privatized prison. With NO fence and NO correction officers. This is beyound stupidity, people are now in danger. Malloy is now hoffman guns salesman of the year..
Jackie Fischer March 04, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Thank you for your input into the issue facing us in OUR TOWN of Rocky Hill. Prayers and thoughts continue for the citizens for Newtown.
Jackie Fischer March 04, 2013 at 04:36 PM
I live down the hill from the nursing home. Do I put steel doors, bars on my windows and an alarm system in my home? As a long time citizen of CT I have never heard of such a thing prisoners who have committed crimes are able to just walk around towns and cities all for the term "money recieved" by government.
Bedouin March 04, 2013 at 05:39 PM
The privitization idea is a bad one. Whenever government proposes outsourcing it's core responsibilities, it raises flags. Having said that, it's a little incredulous to think that the facility will be as unprepared as Lombardo suggests. Why? Because they'd be throwing money down the drain. Which is not to say that I'm filled with confidence. But I agree with Jaclyn that there's a real lack of transparency and information coming from the state/DOC. Once the place is up and running, I may want to visit the facility to see what kind of condition these folks are in.
Harry March 04, 2013 at 06:11 PM
@ Bedouin God willing this faculty will never be up an running and then you can go to some other town you don't live in to check things out. Private business is about one thing, maximizing profits. There is no doubt they we get lowest bid security to watch the murderers and rapists living feet away from sleeping children. And let's not forget about the low life's that will visit the facility. Will security be armed? What type of weapons? If a gun is discharged, can a stray bullet leave the facility and enter a neighboring home, apartment or condo? There is a hearing coming up March 8th at wesleyan @ 11am . Why hasn't the Judge issued a decision from the Feb 5th hearing? Why is the state ignoring a cease and desist order from our zone board? If Malloy cared at all about our children and families safey he would stop this TODAY. Even with 100% of the town against this, all that matters is getting a big fat check from the federal government. And then what happens when the Feds say, there's no funding for this anymore....
Bedouin March 04, 2013 at 07:00 PM
I think you raise more enough valid concerns that the state must address each concern point by point. Of course, I doubt they can rebut it all, in which case they should nix the project. My recommendation to Rocky Hill residents is seek national attention. Shine a spotlight. Seek as much publicity as humanly possible.
Slim March 04, 2013 at 07:27 PM
People in American suburbs have become soft and weak. I fear the day that something real happens.
Slim March 04, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Anyone notice the department of Homeland Security trucks driving around Rocky Hill and Cromwell lately. You guys have bigger problems.
Harry March 04, 2013 at 08:51 PM
@ slim, no worries , dhs has 1.6 billion hollow point rounds, 2700 light duty tanks all for the use of training for a zombie invasion But for now, let's just concentrate on not allowing the PRISON on 60 west street to open. Nothing to see here, just murderers rapists child molestors with No Fence and No Correction officers, brought to you by the bestest governor in CT history , Dano Malloy

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