Garner Correctional Institution, the state Department of Correction’s (DOC) high-security prison at 50 Nunnawauk Road, which opened in 1992, now has its sixth warden, a man who served as a deputy warden there before being promoted late last year.
Henry Falcone, 51, who grew up in Bridgeport, is the new warden. Warden Falcone became a captain when he was assigned to Garner in 2006. He then became a deputy warden there in 2011.
Earlier in his career, he had worked at the Bridgeport Correctional Center.
The 22-year DOC veteran notes that there is a clear difference in pace at the two DOC units. The urban Bridgeport facility has a fast pace of activity, while the suburban Newtown facility has a slower pace.
Warden Falcone worked as a union carpenter before taking the DOC test for correction officer and then being hired for work at the Bridgeport facility.
As warden, Mr Falcone has broad responsibilities, overseeing operations at the 245,000-square-foot Garner, where 530 male inmates were incarcerated on March 4. Of that number, 312 men were mental health inmates, 197 were general population prisoners, and 21 were in the prison’s youth development unit.
The youth unit specializes in reforming the behavior of younger inmates through a program in which they renounce their prison-gang affiliations and also study to obtain general equivalency diplomas. Those inmates are 18 to 21 years old and receive instruction in a special education context.
When Warden Falcone arrived at Garner in 2006 as a captain, he worked under James Dzurenda, who was then the facility’s warden. Mr Dzurenda is now the DOC commissioner.
Warden Falcone replaced Scott Semple as Garner warden in November 2013. Mr Semple is now DOC’s deputy commissioner for operations.
Warden Falcone explained that when he worked at Bridgeport Correctional Center in the past, he became used to its fast “revolving door” pace of activity.
Bridgeport Correctional functions largely as a “jail,” where many of the inmates are incarcerated for relatively short periods, while Garner is largely a “prison” where many inmates are serving longer terms.
Garner has a “more controlled” environment for inmates, he said.
Mental Health Inmates
Garner is the DOC facility that specializes in the housing and treatment of mental health inmates.
One of his prime roles as warden is to ensure that prison staff members are well-trained on inmate custody generally, and in dealing with prisoners who have mental health problems, Warden Falcone said.
For the past decade, Garner has worked closely with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to provide suitable care for mental health inmates.
Warden Falcone stresses that Garner inmates who have mental health issues are getting “quality treatment” while incarcerated there.
Dealing with mental health inmates can be complicated, he said, adding that prison staffers seek to be flexible in finding what particular approach works for a given inmate.
The prison staff faces challenges at Garner where they not only must deal with men serving out prison terms, but also deal with inmates who have mental health problems, he said. “It’s a difficult place to work…a stressful place,” he said.
“We’re a ‘controlled environment’ and that’s what I key on,” he said.
To ensure that control, Garner has 285 surveillance cameras in place to monitor activity, he said.
The prison’s roof has multiple detection devices atop it. Also, a security patrol constantly drives around the prison perimeter.
Overall, nearly 400 people work at Garner, many of whom are correction officers, Warden Falcone said. “Without them, this facility is not going to run,” he sad.
The DOC seeks to involve inmates’ families with incarceration issues, he said.
If inmates to be discharged are “homeless,” the DOC directs them to homeless shelters, he said.
Inmates are provided with a two-week supply of their psychiatric medication on their discharge, he added.
In seeking to help inmates make the transition to the broader world, the prison has a discharge planner, he said. Such efforts are intended to provide a “soft landing” for inmates, he added.
Warden Falcone said he finds interacting with prison staff members to be the most satisfying aspect of his job.
When not at work, Warden Falcone enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson Road King Classic motorcycle through the countryside. He has been married for 28 years and has two grown daughters.
(Content modified at 11:12 am 3/7/14).