Comerford and Holly Richardson, said state and city
police arrived at the site of the jail, 701 Center St. and asked them to
dismantle the "park."
"They negotiated with us," said Comerford, who noted
everything except a swing set was removed and the protesters were
relocated across the street holding signs as police stood by.
"The construction crews were very respectful of us.
They are only doing their jobs," said Comerford.
"We built a beautiful park. It was a vision of what
could have been," said Comerford, who spoke as Fontaine Brothers crews
cleared a portion of the wooded site - the former location of the regional
Richard J. McCarthy, assistant deputy superintendent
and spokesman at Ludlow's Hampden County Correction Center, said
yesterday, "The original plan for the correction center was to have a
separate free-standing women's facility on the Ludlow site. Environmental
regulations regarding the Ludlow site prevented that from happening. As a
result, women are incarcerated in the middle of what is essentially the
male correctional facility and they are outnumbered by the men who
surround them by a ratio of 11 to 1."
"Simple common sense dictates that this cannot be a
permanent situation. We understand the protesters are opposed to building
of correctional facilities but we believe this regional women's correction
center is necessary for appropriate confinement and services for women
offenders," said McCarthy.
Richardson noted that in 1902, George Atwater left many
parcels of land to a trust to be used for "the inhabitants of Springfield
and Chicopee" as park land. "This land was meant to be enjoyed by the
people of Chicopee. I think it's fair to say that very few people enjoy
going to jail," Richardson said.
Organizers statewide have been protesting this jail for
the past three years and yesterday pledged to continue
"As Gov. Mitt Romney has put the wheels in motion for
the construction of this jail, our park is all that's standing in the way
of the bulldozers and backhoes," Boston resident Toussaint Losier said.
Comerford said, "This park will help us ask a critical
question of our communities and our elected officials. Do we need another
jail at the expense of green space and schools and public transportation,
jobs, housing and health care for all? We don't think so. For a precious
moment, we will be walking the walk or swinging on the swing, as the case
While organizers knew the park would be dismantled,
they felt their message was a strong one that needed to be expressed. They
oppose incarceration of women for nonviolent offenses, opting instead for
services and programming to help them and avoid what they say is a certain
return for women to the same neighborhoods.
"There are alternatives to incarceration," Comerford
McCarthy said Fontaine Brothers crews last week began
site preparation work which will continue throughout the winter with a
construction timetable of 20 months. The new facility will offer female
inmates comprehensive services such as substance-abuse treatment, job and
educational training and "re-entry" preparation.
For several weeks, organizers have been meeting and
strategizing as well as collecting donations of park and game equipment
from the wider community.
"This jail is wrong. We know it's wrong. Community
people know it's wrong. Our community leaders know it's wrong. And we're
not about to let it be built without showing ourselves and each other what
else beautiful is really possible," said Richardson.