Crossover

March 27, 2024|0 Comments

March 15th was the last legislative session before crossover. Crossover is when bills that have passed out of one chamber, house or senate, get passed to the other, senate or house, to be taken up, And since this is the second year of our legislative biennial, any bill that hasn’t “made the crossover” will need to be refiled the following year. (more…)

Good Things Take Time

February 7, 2024|0 Comments

A Common-Sense Approach Can Address Addiction and Crime

Haste makes waste, an old adage that rings true today. The ability of opioids to take root in our very state, towns, neighborhoods and families took time. Yet the recent Bill H.534 demonstrates how quickly lawmakers jump to increasing multiple retail theft penalties into some serious jail time. Quick to make this choice, versus meaningful rehabilitation time for those repeat shoplifters, likely stealing to support a pernicious opioid addiction. (more…)

The “tough on crime” approach won’t solve our problems

January 28, 2024|0 Comments

Criminologists talk a lot about the pendulum swing between “tough on crime” strategies and those that rely more on human services than punishment. These swings are evident in legislation, and other policy measures. We are seeing it now at the Vermont Statehouse: a swing back to the “tough on crime” approach. Being tough on crime means a few different things. On the surface, it seems like a reasonable response; of course we don’t want to be “tolerant” of crime. But what it means in practice is costly laws passed in response to (understandably) fed-up and worried constituents, without sufficient thought to the long-term consequences, and more importantly, what the existing evidence-base shows to be effective.

I appreciate the constituents’ worries and the legislators’ desire to be responsive. But there is clear evidence that as states increase investments in criminal legal apparatuses, they reduce investment in human services/welfare. And naturally, as we divest from human services, and funding that would raise those most in need, we see more social problems in the form of houselessness, untreated mental illness and substance use disorder. (more…)

Behind the Smoke and Mirrors: The True Story of PRIN

December 6, 2023|3 Comments

His words were scratching through the poor connection of our video call and interrupted by banging doors and shouting voices, but his conviction could not have been any clearer: “I would rather have never known about the program than have something to invest my hope and creativity into and give ideas that were never brought anywhere. Our ideas never left that room. That’s not just grant fraud, that is spiritual fraud.”

He was telling me about the Prison Research and Innovation Project, known simply as PRIN, which began in Vermont in the fall of 2020. PRIN is a five-year pilot project which brings together a variety of different institutions; it is funded by Arnold Ventures, whose fortune is linked to corporate payouts in the final days of Enron; overseen by the Urban Institute, a DC-based non-profit; studied by researchers at the University of Vermont; and ultimately controlled by the Vermont Department of Corrections. Vermont DOC’s website describes PRIN as an effort at “improving prison environments and ensuring dignity and humanity for all.” (more…)

Vermont Needs a Second Look

December 4, 2023|0 Comments

On Friday, November 3, 2023, the Center for Justice Reform at the Vermont Law & Graduate School hosted a day-long conference to discuss a proposed bill in the legislature, S.155, also known as “Second Look”  legislation.

Throughout the day, participants heard from various legal and criminal justice experts from around the country about the importance of Second Look. (more…)

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