I found the article published yesterday in Seven Days, “Guarded Secrets: Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Drug Use Plague a Vermont Prison for Women,” deeply disturbing. The behavior described is reprehensible, and Vermont’s inmates deserve better. I support the Governor’s directive to his Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith for an investigation of the Department of Corrections. I will offer my assistance in my role as Attorney General to Secretary Smith. While the Department of Corrections is under the Governor’s authority, we should all be concerned for the safety and dignity of those who are in the custody of the Department of Corrections. This investigation needs to commence immediately, and it needs to be thorough and transparent.
I would caution any rush to build a new prison as a result of this report. We need to focus on keeping people from being incarcerated in the first place. And the issues of community support, such as affordable housing, childcare, treatment, and a more trauma-informed system of justice, need to be a part of this conversation. Any review of the Correctional Facility and the women incarcerated needs to be done in a deliberate, thoughtful way that is also inclusive of victims, families, and the community.
Last modified: December 5, 2019