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Monday, January 28, 2013

Vermont: One Tiny State’s Movement to Ban Private Prisons

By: Jonathan Leavitt, From: Toward Freedom
Thursday, 24 January 2013

Vermont, the most progressive state in America, spent over $14 million last year to lock up Vermonters in for profit prison like Lee Adjustment Center, located in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest. Private prisons like Correctional Corporation of America (CCA)'s Lee Adjustment Center offer no mental health, educational or rehabilitational services, but they do post massive corporate profits; CCA posted $1.7 billion in 2011 revenue alone. As best-selling author Michelle Alexander notes in her seminal book The New Jim Crow, more black men are under correctional control now than were enslaved in 1850. A recent New Yorker piece noted more Americans are now incarcerated than there were imprisoned in Stalin’s gulags.

Clearly a dialogue about mass incarceration, budget crises, and privatization is unfolding. A group of Vermonters working out of Church basements and living rooms is attempting to build a movement to push this conversation forward by passing a historic law banning Vermont’s use of for-profit prisons.

Behind the Profitable Private Prison Wall

Between 2002 and 2003, according to the Rutland Herald, the number of prisoners in Vermont increased at "nearly five times the national average." The number of teenagers and young adults in Vermont jails surged by more than 77 percent. A racialized "get tough on crime" ideology, mandatory minimums, and harsher sentencing guidelines from the failed war on drugs left then Republican Vermont Governor Jim Douglas at a moment of departure: build new prisons, or start shipping Vermonters incarcerated under these controversial policies into the deep south to be warehoused without even the “rehabilitative” programs found in Vermont prisons.

According to Prison Legal News’ Matthew Clarke, CCA doubled the population of Lee Adjustment Center in three months in 2004 with a massive influx of some of the first Vermont prisoners housed in private prisons. These conditions and what State Senator James Leddy called a "rogue warden" led to an uprising at Lee Adjustment Center involving 100 inmates. The Louisville Currier Journal and The Times Argus detailed how those involved in the riot tore down fences, began “tearing apart” a wooden guard tower with a guard still inside and toppled the guard tower. In addition, fires “heavily damaged the administration building and guard shack.”

"The inmates literally had control of this place, the inner compound," said Adam Corliss, an inmate from Springfield, Vermont. A week and a half after the riot, the Montpelier Vermont daily The Times Argus printed an excerpt of a Vermont inmate’s letter home to his fiancĂ© detailing the uprising: “Inmates chasing guards with 2x4s breaking everything in sight…It was so hostile that the S.W.A.T. team of guards came in, launching tear gas, armed with shotguns.”

When the Assistant Warden summoned the 20-person response team only three responded. Clarke details the precipitating conditions: racial and regional prejudices, overcrowding, poor nutrition, and CCA’s warden undertaking, “a zero-tolerance disciplinary crackdown that gave guards the ability to discipline prisoners without proof of misconduct and even put them in solitary confinement for 60 days without disciplinary charges.”

These conditions and the riot they produced happened in the first months of Vermont’s experiment with private prisons. Rather than serving as a cautionary tale about the hollowed-out services privatization provides, policymakers have since only increased the number of Vermonters housed in Lee Adjustment Center and other CCA prisons.

The Moral Consequences of Privatization

“I could write a book about violations [against Vermonters in private prisons],” says Frank Smith, of the Bluff City, Kansas-based Private Correction Working Group. “I visited Beattyville after the September 2004 riot and I have Open Records Act info on it. In Marion Adjustment Center (a CCA prison in St. Mary, Kentucky) there was sexual abuse by guards. CCA did very little to stop it or to help track down the offenders after they fled to avoid prosecution from MAC and the women's prison -also known as, the ‘rape factory’ – at Otter Creek, Kentucky.”

The same year of the Lee Adjustment Center uprising, The Vermont Guardian reported that Republican Governor Jim Douglas requested corporate bids for the healthcare for (what was then) 1,700 in-state prisoners. Douglas went with the lowest bidder, Prison Health Services, for $645 million over ten years, and Vermonters under their care started literally dying from inadequate care, including Ashley Ellis, a 23 year old woman serving a 30 day sentence.

Prison Health Services broke the contract, not due to concerns related to the deaths, but due to their projected profits never materializing. Prison Legal News editor Paul Wright was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Vermont "cannot contract out the public's fundamental right to know how their tax dollars are being spent and the quality of services the pubic is getting for its money."

Powerful Allies, Monolithic Opponents

According to a bombshell 2008 memo detailing the cost of Vermont’s for-profit prisons use, newly sworn in Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer wrote, “Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) does not provide mental health services. […] CCA does not provide services related to sexual abuse, substance abuse, or violent offenders.” According to the memo there’s a laundry list of programing provided here in Vermont facilities which are conspicuously absent at the for-profit prisons. “DOC programs not available through CCA include the Cognitive Self Change program for violent offenders; the Intensive Domestic Abuse Program; Batterers Intervention Program; the Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs; and the Discover Program for those with substance abuse problems.”

Suzi Wizowaty, a Democratic Vermont State Representative from Burlington and lead sponsor of H.28 which states “As of July 1, 2013, all Vermont inmates shall be incarcerated in correctional facilities that are owned and operated by the federal, state, or local government (‘public’).“ Wizowaty, in explaining her bill, makes the case that in this time of austerity Vermonters wanting to use these public dollars responsibly means using public oversight. “The idea that private prisons save money is illusory and has been debunked, the most optimistic studies show that they are a-wash in spending, because there are higher rates of recidivism, less job training, therapy and programming. All we are doing is putting profits in the pockets in the prison corporations.”

Another elite schism which lends credence to Vermont's anti-privatization efforts comes from an unlikely place, Florida's Republican Party. Florida Republican State Senator Mike Fasano led a successful effort to stop the privatization of 27 prisons, saying, "We have a 10 percent-plus unemployment rate in the state of Florida, and the last thing we should be doing is moving prisons that were paid for by the taxpayers into the hands of corporations, that would probably put many of these families out of work, who have mortgages to pay, homeowner’s insurance to pay, food on the table. This would be devastating to—not only to their families, but also to the community they live in.”

One might assume that given these financial and moral arguments policy makers would be feel compelled to discontinue using private prisons, if only because risk-adverse state governments typically dislike courting law suits. However, the prison corporations Wizowaty and Hoffer have critiqued are Wall Street monoliths. CCA send a letter to 48 states, dangling hundreds of millions of dollars in front of the cash strapped, austerity budget-minded governors, if only those states will privatize their prisons for the next twenty years. And, oh yeah, one other tiny piece of fine print: the prisons must be kept at least 90% full for the duration of the contract. Seemingly, this would create a contractual incentive for states to enact harsher sentencing guidelines and policing procedures. Meanwhile as best-selling author and legal scholar Glenn Greenwald writes, “Since there is no well funded lobby advocating for penal reform or promoting the interests of prisoners, the prison lobby goes virtually unchallenged and can buy the ability to shape pertinent laws at bargain basement prices.”

The military refers to mission creep as “the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals.” Corporate prisons who only know how to maximize profits for shareholders have expanded their mission to incarcerating 50% of immigrants detained in the US. Perhaps unsurprisingly the number of immigrants detained has exploded during the same period. Which begs the question: to what degree can a $1.7 billion per year prison corporation like CCA shape public policy? As a December 2008 Boston Phoenix article details: “[private prisons] regularly lobby against criminal punishment reforms, and for the creation of new criminal statues and overly harsh prison sentences. While these efforts are cloaked as calls for public safety, they are essentially creating more business for themselves [...] CCA spent more than $2.7 million from 2006 through September 2008 on lobbying for stricter laws.”

Or, as CCA states in plainsong in its 2010 annual report: “Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new corrections and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any change with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number or persons arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them."

The Primacy of Movement-Building

“It is absolutely essential that we raise the profile of this issue. We will not get anywhere without people calling their public officials, we will not get anywhere without that kind of organizing,” says Wizowaty. With that in mind, in a Burlington church basement this Martin Luther King Day, community organizers like Infinite Culcleasure began what they hope to be the first of many conversations about private prisons. “The grassroots component,” says Culcleasure, “is invaluable in overcoming the special interest and apathy that currently exists on this mass incarceration. With all of the competing crises for communities to manage, our greatest challenge in making this a watershed moment for prison reform is to make it a local issue that is directly relevant in people’s everyday lives.” With a network of 145 churches statewide interested in hosting similar conversations, it seems the tiny state of Vermonters are poised to bring forward a very different vision than corporate mass incarceration.

That said, the CCAs of the world are well-versed in utilizing their taxpayer dollars to leverage Vermont’s political elite: they helped finance former-Governor Douglas’ Inaugural Ball and donate to influential state senators’ re-elections. This is an industry which, as Glenn Greenwald notes in With Liberty and Justice for Some, has spent $3.3 million on state political parties and politicians in the 2002 and 2004 political cycles, according to a 2004 National Institute on Money In State Politics report.

Dick Sears, the influential state senator who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that this bill will have to emerge from, has received more campaign donations from private prisons than any other policymaker in Vermont's Statehouse. CCA's annual reports assume that this rarified historical moment where The New Jim Crow is a bestseller, The House I Live In has won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and Stop and Frisk has been declared unconstitutional won’t last forever. Certain social and political factors which prefigure a new social movement emerging are appearing: a loss of legitimacy in former institutions and attitudes, elite schisms, and unifying motivations. The question is one of organizing to scale. As with making health care a human right, decommissioning a failing nuclear power plant, and getting drivers’ licenses for migrant workers, if the Green Mountain State is to lead the country forward on the issue of private prisons, it will depend on Vermonters making good on their aspirations to build a statewide movement which will compel  VT senators such as Dick Sears to move this bill forward.

As the first of many Vermont church basement organizing conversations on private prisons unfolds, high schoolers hands are flashing in the air: "How is this moral?" "Why do corporations do this?" and in so many different ways "What can I do?" Infinite Culcleasure and Suzi Wizowaty have skillfully transfigured the church basement of teenagers into eager community organizers. Before the conversation reaches its midpoint the high schoolers are poised to bring this dialogue out into the larger community, to hold their elected officials accountable and draw Vermonters across the state together to share their stories and build a movement which can be a sufficient countervailing force to the influence of Wall Street's private prisons. Afterwards the interstitial space of the Church hallway is luminous with excitement; the Pastor offers Suzi and Infinite the opportunity for similar conversations about for-profit prisons in congregations around Vermont. Just down the corridor a new generation of organizers is sending so many social media appeals to shutter the Lee Adjustment Center, shutter CCA and to shutter the private prison industry. Their prescient questions haunt me as I walk out into the snow: "How is this moral?" "Why do corporations do this?" and in so many different ways "What can I do?"

Jonathan Leavitt a journalist, community organizer, and teaches college classes about social movements in Burlington, VT Email: jonathan.c.leavitt(at)gmail.com

Link to article: http://www.towardfreedom.com/home/special-reports/3119-vermont-one-tiny-states-movement-to-ban-private-prisons

Monday, August 6, 2012

Former VT Prison Inmate’s Slavery Lawsuit Allowed To Move Forward

From: Boston CBS Local
August 4th 2012


BURLINGTON, VT (CBS) – A unique lawsuit filed against the state of Vermont is being allowed continue in the courts. A man is suing Vermont’s prison system, claiming they violated his 13th Amendment rights under the Constitution. The 13th Amendment bans slavery.

Finbar McGarry was a PhD student at the University of Vermont when he was arrested in December 2008 for a domestic disturbance.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Mark Katic talks about the case with David Frank of Lawyer’s Weekly




Charges were eventually dropped, but for six weeks, he says he was forced to work 14-hour days in the prison laundry for $0.25 an hour.

McGarry says that is slavery. He is suing for 1$1 million.
Dismissed by a lower court, on Friday the 2nd US Circuit Court ruled the lawsuit can proceed.


Read more: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2012/08/04/former-vt-prison-inmates-slavery-lawsuit-allowed-to-move-forward/

Here is an article about the lawsuit on Reuters:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/03/us-vermont-slavery-idUSBRE8721EJ20120803

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bill on prison racial disparity passes Vermont House

From the Greenfield Reporter, March 29, 2012:


MONTPELIER, Vt. — A bill calling for a study of the disproportionate number of African-Americans in Vermont's prisons has passed the House and is headed for the Senate.

Backers of the measure, which passed on a 132-7 roll call vote Wednesday, say the study will focus on whether African American defendants are sentenced more harshly by Vermont judges.

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lawmakers Push To Reduce Prisoner Recidivism

From Vermont Public Radio
Dec 20, 2011
John Dillon
(Host) Vermont has set ambitious goals to cut the number of prisoners who return to jail.
The effort to reduce the recidivism rate is still in the study phase. But officials say it's critical to control the spiraling cost of corrections.

VPR's John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Right now, 43 percent of Vermont prisoners released from jail are incarcerated again within three years.

The Legislature recognized that the high rate of returning prisoners makes corrections one of the fastest growing areas of state government. Lawmakers passed a bill last winter called the War on Recidivism act. But that war is still very much in the planning stage. The first step was research.

(Schlueter) "I think the good news is that there are many successful programs in each and every one of the topics that you asked us to look at that are successful or at least promising in terms of reducing recidivism."

(Dillon) Max Schlueter is director of the Vermont Center for Justice Research. He oversaw a study that looked at recidivism prevention programs around the country and in Vermont.
Schlueter says Vermont has been a leader in certain areas.

(Schlueter) "Closer to home, I think it's safe to say that the Department of Corrections and its community partners have long embraced notions of evidence-based programming and in particular probably one of the most essential evidence based practice, the use of risk assessment."

(Dillon) Dick Sears is a senator from Bennington who chairs both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Corrections Oversight Committee.

He says lawmakers want to reduce recidivism over the next three years from 43 percent to 30 percent.
(Sears) "And that may not sound startling but that reduces the number of crimes committed, reduces a lot of things, and the human toll and toll on victims and so forth."

(Dillon) Sears sees the war on recidivism as part of a progression of reforms designed to reduce the corrections population and control costs.

(Sears) We started out talking about reducing the number of out of state beds. Now we're talking about really reducing crime further and reducing the repeat offender. And that's critical.

(Dillon) Vermont now has 522 prisoners doing time in prisons out of state.
Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito told the oversight committee that he's working on initiatives that should cut that number over the next several years.

(Pallito) "We have a series of proposals in the 2013 budget that will bring our of out of state population, will continue to bring it down. I think you'll be impressed when you see the totality of what we're thinking."

(Dillon) Pallito says the recidivism study is just the start of a multi-year effort. And he says a first step was agreeing on a common definition of recidivism so policy makers can track progress and see how Vermont compares to other states.

For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Inmates, Vermont prisons in conflict over Muslim prayer services

In: Burlington Free Press
Nov. 28, 2011

An inmate's right to practice his religion is well-worn territory in Vermont's prisons.

In 1994, Muslim inmates at the St. Albans prison complained they had to fight for their right to practice their religion. Prison officials said the issue represented growing pains as they became accustomed to an increasingly diverse population.

In 2007, the state, which was under pressure from national religious rights groups, changed its rules to allow inmates to attend any religious service of their choosing.
In 2008, the state paid a $25,000 settlement to a Jewish inmate who accused the prison of denying him kosher food for Passover.

So it would seem in 2011 that inmates' access to weekly prayer services would be well-established.
Not so, said inmate Gregory Sierras, a Muslim who said he and other inmates this year have had to fight for their right to hold Friday prayer services and receive pre-dawn and after-dusk meals during Ramadan in the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.

Read the rest here...

Sacred Words: writing for female prisoners

Monday, 12/05/11 on: VPR

By Marybeth Redmond, Produced by Betty Smith-Mastaler
 
(Host) For Vermont's incarcerated women, stress levels typically rise at holiday time. The season activates painful memories and reminds them of bridges burned with family and friends. But, journalist and commentator Marybeth Redmond explains how writing has become an important outlet of self-expression for some of them.

(Redmond) Most Thursday evenings find a colleague and me writing with about 12 women prisoners. We write inside the caverns of Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Each of us records our well-worn pasts and present-days on yellow-lined pads of paper. Our aim is to use writing as a tool for reflection and self-change. However, the giving and receiving of our words also serve as a healthy release-valve for the daily frustrations that crop up.
Read the rest here...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Care of the Mentallly Ill in Vermont Prisons


Posted By Mel Huff On September 1, 2009


Prison: A tough environment for mentally ill: Questions raised about Corrections care
Bounced from criminal justice system to mental health programs



In August 2000, Leah Matteson and her family moved from Cambridge, N.Y., across the state line to Bennington: Matteson had heard the Bennington school system had a good program for children with serious mental illness.

Her son Patrick Cristaldi had been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of 7. (The neurological disorder is characterized by tics and involuntary vocalizations, such as shouting, and is associated with impulsive behavior.) Later, he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. When he was 13, he tried to hang himself.

Patrick spent the next nine years in and out of The Brattleboro Retreat, a mental health and addictions treatment center. Some of his manic episodes were so severe that he displayed psychotic symptoms.

During one episode when he was 17, Patrick picked up an object in the yard, swung it and hit his brother, who had tackled him to bring him under control. His mother called 911 for an ambulance. Instead, three police cars arrived.

Patrick was handcuffed, taken to the police station and charged with a felony for assaulting his brother. Ultimately, he was allowed to go to The Retreat, although the charges remained in place.
As Matteson tells the story, for the next five years her son ricocheted back and forth between the “silos” of the state’s systems of mental health and criminal justice. (Confidentiality rules prevented the Department of Corrections from commenting on Matteson’s allegations.)
Matteson, who is president of the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont [2]and coordinator of education and training at the Vermont State Hospital, says Patrick was not given counseling, had no coordinated treatment plan and was frequently held in segregation as discipline for behaviors arising from his disabilities. In addition, she tells of poor community case management and lack of communication between local mental heath providers and the Department of Corrections. 

Patrick graduated from high school in June 2005, and in January 2006 he enrolled in the Community College of Vermont. But by spring he was not doing well and began hanging out with friends who used drugs. Twice he voluntarily entered the substance abuse program at The Retreat. The second time he was released before he was ready, Matteson said, because his insurance coverage would no longer pay for treatment. Still not stabilized on his medications, according to his mother, Patrick had a psychotic break, got in a fight with his best friend and broke his jaw.

Patrick was taken to the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland that night, a Thursday, Matteson said, and his medications were taken away.
On the following Monday Patrick appeared in court with delirium tremens, an acute and potentially fatal consequence of rapid alcohol or drug withdrawal, and he had had no medications for the five days he had been in the holding tank in Rutland, Matteson said. “Thank God, the judge knew he was in DTs, so they sent him to Vermont State Hospital,” she added.
The result was a second felony conviction.
Patrick was sent to Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans in 2007. There, he was put in a cognitive self-change program for violent offenders that required participants to write monthly “thinking reports.” But Patrick was unable to complete the assignments without help: Since middle school, he had had an Individualized Education Plan and a one-to-one aide.

Matteson enlisted Vermont Legal Aid in an effort to get an accommodation for Patrick’s disability. It took months to get the needed help, Matteson said, and because Patrick missed two months’ work, he was expelled from the program. Ultimately, he was provided with an aide and did complete the cognitive self-change program, Matteson said, although he was not given counseling.

When Patrick was released in October 2007, his mother said, he was not on the right medication and was manic. Consequently, he violated a condition of his parole and was immediately reincarcerated, first in Rutland and then in the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.
When Patrick was released in October 2007, he violated a condition of his parole and was immediately reincarcerated, first in Rutland and then in the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, his mother said. At the time, he was not on the right medication and experienced manic episodes, Matteson said.

In December 2008, he was moved to Newport and put in the cognitive self-change program again. When he asked for an accommodation for his disability, he didn’t receive a response within the 10 day period, Matteson said, and was kicked out of the program for what she calls “his verbal thoughts and expressions.” He will have to wait a year before he can re-enter the program, she noted.

Matteson charges that her son has been in corrections for three years without therapeutic care and that he has been punished for behavior arising from his disability.
“Eventually, these people are going to come back out into the community, and they’re going to reoffend, and they’re going to get reincarcerated because there’s no system in place,” she says. “There’s no collaboration. Our mental health system is so broken.”

Lawsuits, probes bring issues to state’s attention
There are several explanations for the situation Matteson described.
First and foremost is a lack of mental health expertise within the criminal justice system. Within corrections, overcrowding, frequent transfers of prisoners and high staff turnover makes sustained treatment difficult.

Another factor is the lack of coordination between the Department of Corrections and other departments in the Agency of Human Services.
The state, aware of these problems, is taking steps to improve its treatment of mentally ill offenders.

The Department of Corrections is emerging from what Commissioner Andrew Pallito calls “a particularly problematic time.” In the 11 months between November 2002 and October 2003, seven offenders died in the custody of the Vermont Department of Corrections. Three of the deaths were suicides.
Suicides in state correctional facilities [3]
The Agency of Human Services commissioned an investigation into the cause of the deaths. Attorneys Michael Marks and Philip McLaughlin, who investigated the seven prison deaths, acknowledged in their report that the department faced “enormous challenges” – tight budgets, lack of beds, a prison population with high levels of substance abuse and mental illness and high inmate turnover.

But they concluded that “there are significant areas in which the Department should improve the provision of mental health services to inmates.”
The Marks and McLaughlin report [4] spurred a 2005 “plan of response” by the Department of Corrections [5] that included restructuring leadership, establishing an internal investigations unit with a toll-free number for prisoners and staff, developing protections for whistle-blowers and creating greater transparency.

While the Department of Corrections has implemented the recommendations, A.J. Ruben, the supervising attorney for Vermont Protection and Advocacy [6], a nonprofit organization that defends the rights of people with mental illness and disabilities, maintains that the most important reforms of the past six years have come about through legal challenges.

In 2006, a settlement reached between the Department of Corrections and Vermont Protection and Advocacy added protections that ended a longstanding policy of disciplining prisoners “based solely on the symptoms of their disability,” Ruben said. The settlement restricted the use of segregation as a response to prisoners who harmed themselves. Instead of punishing suicidal prisoners, corrections personnel were required to respond therapeutically to mentally ill inmates. (One of the cases investigated by Marks and McLaughlin concerned a prisoner who hanged himself in a segregation cell after being kept there with little release time for 118 days.)

“Officials: Suicidal inmates monitored more closely” [7]
 
A second major advance was achieved in 2008 when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the state’s prisons are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ruling came about through the efforts of Robert Appel of the Human Rights Commission and Barbara Prine of Vermont Legal Aid’s Disability Law Project.

The ruling requires the Department of Corrections to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that offenders with disabilities have the same opportunities as other inmates.
In May the legislature passed a bill, S-2, which replaced the term “serious mental illness” in statutes relating to offenders with the broader term “serious functional impairment.”
The earlier language had a narrower scope: While psychoses, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other illnesses were covered, developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and dementia were not. Prisoners with serious functional impairments now have the same protections afforded prisoners with serious mental illness, including protection against prolonged segregation.

Tough environment for mentally ill
Some things, however, haven’t changed.

“In the most general terms,” said Ed Paquin, Vermont Protection and Advocacy’s executive director, “we have an overcrowded system, and we have a system that is not geared towards giving the level of treatment that should be given for people who have serious functional impairments.”

Prison, he observed, is “a very tough environment in which to be mentally ill.”
A key factor is extreme overcrowding.

On August 6, according to Commissioner of Corrections Andrew Pallito, the State of Vermont was housing 1,599 prisoners in-state. The number of in-state beds is 1,600. “We have periods when we’re over,” Pallito observed. “We’re dealing with a lot of flow.”

Source: Vermont Department of Corrections, monthly population statistics, 1984-2010 [8]
Source: Vermont Department of Corrections, monthly population statistics, 1984-2010
Attorneys Marks and McLaughlin quoted one superintendent who told them that within the course of a year, she processed 1,900 prisoners into her facility and 1,700 out of it. She asked, “Do you think I know who they are, let alone tell you that I provide them corrections and rehabilitative services? I stash them until they are moved.”

Read the rest here.


See “Court mandates treatment for mentally ill offenders” [9]
See “How the mental health court works” [10]


Article printed from VTDigger: http://vtdigger.org


URLs in this post:
[2] National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont : http://www.nami.org/
[4] The Marks and McLaughlin report: [link wrong]
[5] 2005 “plan of response” by the Department of Corrections: http://www.doc.state.vt.us/about/reports/plan-of-response
[6] Vermont Protection and Advocacy: http://www.vtpa.org/ [Note from VPW: this leads to: Virginia Tax Payers Association]
[7] [See sidebarof orig.], “Officials: Suicidal inmates monitored more closely” : http://vtdigger.org/2009/09/01/suicidal-inmates-monitored-more-closely-officials-say/
[10] See “How the mental health court works”: http://vtdigger.org/2009/08/13/sidebar-how-the-chittenden-mental-health-court-works/


[picture 1]
For a five year period, Leah Matteson's mentally ill son, Patrick Cristaldi, was in and out of the criminal justice system from the age of 17. Matteson says her son didn't receive proper care in prison. She provided this high school yearbook photo of Patrick.