We talked with Executive Director of VT CURE, Tim Burgess about his current advocacy work and the issues he feels are most pressing for prison reform in Vermont. Tim was incarcerated for five years, serving time both in Vermont and in the private CCA facility in Kentucky.
What is CURE and how can it help those incarcerated and their families?
Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) is a national grassroots organization with state chapters working since 1972. CURE believes that prisons should be used only for those who absolutely must be incarcerated and that those who are incarcerated should have all of the resources they need to turn their lives around. We also believe that human rights documents provide a sound basis for ensuring that criminal justice systems meet these goals.
As the Vermont liaison, I act as a resource under the CURE umbrella for those incarcerated in our state as well as those Vermonters housed out of state. I actively engage with the advocacy process and give support on issues from housing to medical care to human rights violations. My scope of work also engages with those under supervision as well.
What projects are you working on?
Currently I am partnering with the Abolish Private Prisons with the goal to bring all our Vermonters currently housed in Mississippi home to facilities in our own state. Over 100 people are serving time hundreds of miles from their loved ones in a corporate prison known for violence, poor health care and difficult living conditions. Our first step is to file a special grievance on their behalf with the Vermont DOC and to raise awareness about this situation.
I also serve on Vermont’s Executive committee for the Urban Institute’s Prison Research Initiative, which works to develop a better understanding of prison environments and their relationship to the safety and well-being of those who are confined and those who work there. So far we have completed research at Southern State Corrrectional Facility in Springfield and have learned an immense amount about the things not working for residents and staff as well.
I am deeply committed to the legislative process and what bills are being proposed for our judicial and criminal justice systems. Besides sitting in at least three times a week on legislative discussions. I am writing and emailing daily with suggestions and supportive research.
Finally, besides my work with individuals I am collaborating with other advocacy groups like the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Allies Line, and was involved in the early days of Vermonters for Criminal Justice reform.
What do you see as the most pressing issues for our incarcerated population?
The need for healthy, safe housing, health care, consistency in the management of facilities, opportunities for support on re-entry and educational and recreational programming in our facilities.
How can people help your work?
My work is supported 100% by donations. Checks can be mailed to Tim Burgess PO Box 183, Jeffersonville VT 05464. In kind donations currently needed are simple website for Vermont CURE.
Besides donating; stay engaged and active in the changes needed in our carceral system!