DANBURY — Racial tension between management and staff at the federal prison has given the low-security correctional facility for 1,000 men and women the nickname “Klansbury,” staff told a special team of investigators last month during a fact-finding tour.

Investigators from the federal Bureau of Prisons heard first-hand from staff and inmates during a three-day assessment of the “overall operational climate at FCI Danbury” that minorities are discriminated against in discipline cases, racial slurs are written on the lockers of minority staff, racial threats are “brushed off as non-important” by prison managers and minorities are treated unequally during performance reviews, according to a report. 

“(T)here appears to be a disproportionate amount of negative documentation on minorities,” reads a four-page report generated by the federal investigators and reviewed by Hearst Connecticut Media Group. “Other staff, which make up the largest population of the institution, don’t have the same amount of negative documentation. Minorities appear to be targeted with negative documentation.”

A spokesperson for the federal prison responded that “FCI Danbury has taken appropriate action in response to the findings of the report,” without providing any more specifics. The spokesperson said the bureau doesn’t comment on “internal procedures or internal correspondence.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called the findings in the mid-June report by the Bureau of Prisons’ Conflict Resolution, Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Employment, and Diversity Management Team “egregious and wholly unacceptable.”

“From racial discrimination in both the promotion and discipline process to zero consequences for the repeated use of racist slurs, the working conditions at FCI Danbury are clearly unacceptable,” Murphy said Friday. “I expect to see a serious course of action taken to address the issues detailed in this report.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called on the Bureau of Prisons to “take this report as an immediate call to action.”

“The racial bias incidents at FCI Danbury are deeply disturbing,” Blumenthal said. “I will be following up with the Bureau of Prisons to ensure they are investigated and appropriate discipline is imposed.”

The corrective action called for in the federal investigators’ report includes “quarterly team building,” “social relations training,” “diversity and inclusion training,” and “civil treatment training for managers,” among similar measures.

Murphy said that wasn’t enough, particularly for an institution that has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons at least three times in as many years, including a 2021 understaffing crisis that led to a picket outside the prison, and allegations in 2022 of “shockingly reckless” conditions for inmates who tested positive for COVID.

“I’m glad the BOP conducted this survey with inmates and staff, but solving these problems will require more than diversity trainings — we need real accountability,” Murphy said. “Senator Blumenthal and I have previously expressed our concerns with staffing and the conditions at the prison.”

Blumenthal agreed.

“The staffing and facility condition issues continue to be a major concern,” Blumenthal said on Friday. “I have advocated for more resources for Danbury because overworked staff raises security issues and poor facility conditions are a safety and health concern.”

'My goal is for the bureau to act' 

The report, which followed a June 13-15 visit from the prison bureau’s conflict resolution team, came after the leader of the correction officers’ union wrote letters detailing grievances to the prison bureau that the union says “went ignored — in some cases for years.”

“My goal is for the bureau to act,” said Shaun Boylan, executive vice president for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1661. Boylan added that he had not seen the improvements in the management culture called for in the report.

“The issue we are facing has nothing to do with the inmates,” Boylan said. “Our issue is with the management.”

Benjamin O’Cone, a prison bureau spokesperson, said “the BOP and FCI Danbury executive employees have zero tolerance for racial discrimination.”

“Employees are trained and reminded annually about the standards of employee conduct,” O’Cone said.

The report’s overall finding is that FCI Danbury is a “pleasant” work environment “when racial disparities are not involved.”

“As a general matter, we observed that racial tension, diversity and communication appeared to be the main concerns amongst staff at FCI Danbury,” the report reads. “Nevertheless, most staff reported that FCI Danbury was an overall pleasant place to work.”

The report goes on to document a climate of unequal treatment, including testimony from staff that “the discipline process is not fair and equal regarding race,” that “minorities are overrepresented in the discipline process,” and that “racial comments / slurs are reported to management with no follow through.”

For example, one staff member told the federal investigators about receiving two racially-based death threat phone calls at work.

“Once reported, it was brushed off as (a) non-important issue, and the staff member (victim) was placed under investigation,” the report reads.

Under a section of the report called “Positive Notations” investigators point out that “Staff expressed a likeness for the new warden,” and that “New staff was impressed with the simplicity and help with the hiring process.”