February 5, 2016

For-Profit Prisons in Vermont Will Likely See a Contract Renewal

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Vermont is currently in a three-year contract with some for-profit prisons and this week in the legislature, Burlington legislator Barbara Rachaelson argued that we should work towards not renewing that contract. However, the Committee on Corrections and Institutions was hesitant to jump on board with this proposal.

There is a serious space shortage in Vermont when it comes to finding a bed for each prisoner in the state. This ongoing issue has pressured officials to find available beds and to find them quickly. New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts have all refused to accept Vermont prisoners into their jails though they do have sufficient space for them. So while it was acknowledged by some committee members that holding inmates in for-profit correctional facilities is not ideal, it was made clear that there is no other viable choice at the moment.

Rachaelson argued that if we are to use these facilities we should at least ensure that they are handling their inmates appropriately. She then referred to some articles about for-profit prisons in Michigan and of the many wrongdoings they commit by not giving proper and safe treatment to their inmates. “It doesn’t represent our state” she voiced.

One committee member responded by saying, “it’s easy to say, ‘don’t do that’ but what are we going to do instead?” This issue of overpopulation was also noted to be “insurmountable.” No one argued that for-profit prisons were in any way an ideal option, but in terms of budget and resources, it seems to be one of Vermont’s only options.

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