On the radio and online, I’ve heard of the troubles at Northern State Correctional Facility (NSCF) in Newport. In an unusual move, the staff at the prison sent a letter of a “vote of no confidence” in Interim Superintendent Lori Madden. According to VtDigger, “The letter alleged that Madden has failed to staff key positions, permitted untrained staff to work in security positions, and confined incarcerated individuals to their living unit without recreation opportunities due to understaffing.”

The article does not mention the experience of residents at NSCF under Ms. Madden’s leadership. Some of us here at Vermont Just Justice have loved ones in that facility, and here’s what they have reported to us:

  • No response from superintendent when contacted regarding resident’s acute mental health episode and the facility response
  • Request to address medical malpractice concerning resident’s treatment and concerns ignored even after Prisoners Rights confirmed and supported the complaint
  • Oversight and communication on required programming and projected release dates not present even after many requests
  • Lost property forms and grievances not responded to and requests to superintendent for assistance were not responded to
  • Requests to discuss programming, housing and disciplinary reports ignored
  • Complaints regarding safety of residents while walking to med line not responded to. (Residents must cross a large outdoor space unsupervised to reach their meds 3x a day and are often harassed )
  • According to residents, there is little or no oversight on security decisions
  • NSCF continues to have inconsistent security and safety measures
  • Under cooked, inedible food, which has led to incarcerated people becoming sick
  • Staff retaliation and harassment

Ms. Madden has since left her position as Interim Supervisor in Newport, and has returned to her previous Assistant Superintendent role at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. Corrections Commissioner Nick Deml said “The Department thanks Assistant Superintendent Madden for her service at NSCF and looks forward to her continued leadership in St Albans.” In other words, he thanks her for having put staff and residents at risk, and looks forward to more of the same in St. Albans? For putting untrained persons in security positions, endangering their well-being, as well as the safety and well-being of residents?

We, on the other hand, thank the staff of NSCF for coming forward to challenge what they experienced as a dangerous tenure at their place of work.

— Meg McCarthy

One Comment

  1. JuanJose El Tres February 23, 2023 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    It took great courage for NSCF Staff to come forward – in the face of danger of retaliation – to essentially report on conditions there. We DO thank them.
    VT DOC scapegoats the Covid-19 pandemic as resposible for staffing and so many other issues.
    Staffing specifically, was a seemingly insurmountable issue for many years before Covid.
    The environment created by career correctional officers and administration – an environment rife with systemic racism and unfettered intolerance, xenophobia, misogyny, proselytizing, jingoistic flag-waving and narow-mindedness has created a type of mania within what is now a culture unto itself. That type of ignorance fosters more ignorance. Who would want to go work at an already dangerous job – in an unhealthy workplace – and know that if your set of beliefs are not aligned with the majority, you put yourself at risk of harm from your associates? If they think you are one iota liberally minded, you are ostracized – and there is a very real danger that some of your fellow officers would be slow to respond, and come to your aid in an emergency. They make that clear to new recruits IN THOSE WORDS.
    Understaffing is a failure on the part of the Department of Corrections, the Agency of Human Resources, the Vermont legislature and the legislative branch of our Federal Government.
    What is evident is that continuing to do things the same way supports the definition of insanity.
    From the very top down, they need to make changes – making a radical excision of all of the failed policies and directives which continue to be practiced without compunction, and create a governing entity specifically designed for strict oversight – to ensure that the currently ignored laws which are in place to guard against these practices are observed to the letter. VT DOC breaks more laws every day than the people they incarcerate.
    I for one believe that we can do better, that it is encumbent upon us to see to it that a better mechanism is put in place for just that – doing it better, and doing it right.

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