Let us introduce ourselves, and explain why we began this blog:
I have been involved with the criminal legal system for roughly 10 years, when a close loved one became incarcerated. I volunteered with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform at its inception, and served on its board of directors. During that time my focus was on legislation and education. I hoped that our state government could see that the current system of dealing with harm, punitive incarceration, was not effective. Not only does it fail to make our communities safer, it also takes a large chunk of tax dollars for no return on our investment.
Vermont has instituted an initiative called Justice Reinvestment. The goal is to move money away from imprisoning people and move it into education, mental health, and communities — all of which would further the goal of lessening crime. Sadly, small steps are being taken by the leglislature rather than the big, bold reform which is so sorely needed.
I conceived of this blog as a way to give voice to incarcerated people, their friends, families, and advocates, and as a vehicle for informing concerned Vermonters of the situation that exists here. Nothing can change without an informed public. I hope this blog will bring readers closer to understanding the criminal legal system as it exists in Vermont.
During my 57 years of living in Vermont I have found many things to be proud about in our green mountain state.
Our commitment to the environment.
Our empathy for same-sex marriage.
Our resilience during the pandemic. Our maple syrup.
Our natural beauty.
Because of this I never imagined that our carceral system might be flawed.
I have discovered most Vermonters don’t realize that our prisons are dangerously understaffed, creating frequent inhumane lockdowns for residents and stressing an already antiquated system of corrections. Fresh air, exercise, healthy food, and education, which are all foundational Vermont principles, are not offered to our incarcerated people in any consistent way. Healthcare and reliable services for rehabilitation and reentry are inadequate at best and unavailable for many of our incarcerated loved ones.
Like anything that needs changing, awareness is the first step. My hope is that this can be a place for awakening and action. That we can reclaim and recreate a system of corrections that reflects our core Vermont values of compassion, restoration and creativity.
“providing direct support to those incarcerated and their loved ones.”
I have a history with our legal system running at least 30 years. Growing up without much parental supervision, early on I had all the rowdy types of friends you can think of. I got involved with gangs, drugs, and probation by age 14. I was different from my friends because I was able avoid incarceration. However, I watched as these “good” “kind” souls become wrapped up in a broken system. To this day, some of them are finding themselves still caught in this system well into their fifties, due to mental health issues, PTSD, among many other things never addressed in all those years of “rehabilitation”.
Later in life I became a corrections officer in Texas. I quickly realized I wanted to part of the solution and not the problem. Moving to Vermont a few years ago, wanting to be part of the solution, I became a recovery coach, group facilitator, and behavioral health tech. I never imagined, believing Vermont was such a progressive state, I would find out how much farther behind they are than Texas and California, with some of the hardest prisons in the country. However, what I am seeing with a loved one incarcerated is that Vermont is inhumane in their actions. Have you ever heard of someone getting beaten while shackled with their hands cuffed behind their backs, all because they felt uncomfortable stripping naked in front of a guard who they felt stares at them in the shower, then stripped naked by force? This is just one instance of concern. I would hope the amount of ridiculous taxes that come out of my check are paying for rehabilitation and not more trauma to people who started out with trauma of all kinds. I intend on continuing to be part of the solution.