Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Announces Criminal Justice Reform as a Legislative Priority

January 10, 2018

CONTACT: Natalie Silver, Executive Assistant, (802) 595-8679

January 10, 2018

At a press conference today, Attorney General TJ Donovan announced significant progress in expanding access to Diversion and Pretrial Services statewide and highlighted criminal justice reform as a top legislative priority for the Attorney General’s Office. A year ago, Donovan created a new division in the Attorney General’s office specifically to address criminal justice reform. The Community Justice Division is led by David Scherr and Willa Farrell. The division is tasked with improving public safety, ensuring fairness in all aspects of the criminal justice system, and providing equal access to alternative justice programming. By promoting these initiatives, the Community Justice Division is working to reduce Vermont’s incarcerated population and rates of recidivism. Because of The Community Justice Division’s work with the legislature, rates of Diversion referrals have doubled and over 400 people are enrolled in the new Tamarack Program for people with acute substance abuse or mental health needs. Pretrial services are now accessible statewide and referrals are coming from all over Vermont.

To further the goals of the Community Justice Division, Donovan called for the legislature to reform Vermont’s bail statutes. “A system that is based on an ability to pay, disproportionately hurts the poor. Our bail system should focus on those that pose a threat to our public safety.” Donovan cited that when low risk individuals are held even for a matter of days, they are more likely to re-offend. Bail reform will help address this threat to public safety by ensuring only those that pose a risk to the community are being held before trial. Donovan said he looks forward to working with the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on this issue.

Last modified: January 11, 2018