The wind is brutal, the temps are hovering around 10 degrees as I cross the parking lot to SSCF.. There are more visitors in the lobby than usual, but not surprising, since it’s Christmas Eve. We wait for the the CO to show up, then take off our shoes to walk through the metal detector. Some COs will actually check the inside of the shoes for contraband, but today’s guy doesn’t.. One woman in leggings is told she couldn’t visit because leggings were on the NOT ALLOWED list. Since I am heading to my sister’s home in New Hampshire after the visit, I have a dress in my car. I head out into the frigid air to fetch it for her, and she’s able to slip it over her clothing. (more…)
A million different crimes could send you to prison. Depending on who you ask, the length of that time will either be too short or too long. Teaching the offender a lesson in order to correct their behavior — it’s right there in the name, Vermont Department of Corrections. Punishment and correction, these dual missions drive the juggernaut of law enforcement and our state court system. The actual success of these systems — it depends on who’s asking and who answers. Is the crime rate up or down? Do you feel safe? Are the sentences too lenient? Is enough being done for the victims of crime?
I would argue that treating people in prison as irredeemable, with no value now or ever, is a mistake. I further argue that that incarceration alone, without added intensification by prison policies or staff, is punishment enough. We know we are guilty, and every second inside these walls reinforces that. Imagine locking yourself in your bathroom with a total stranger, and sleeping within five feet of the toilet. Covid restrictions might keep you there for 23 and 3/4 hours a day. This over-pressurized living takes its toll on incarcerated people, staff, family, and friends. It’s no secret: jail life breaks people down. Incarcerated people’s reaction to stress may range from total withdrawal to targeted violence. (more…)