On August 8, the advocates of Vermont Just Justice met with the legislators of the Joint Justice Oversight Committee to report on our findings from our collection of stories about the state of health care in our prisons. They were joined by several members of the House Health Care Committee. Corrections commissioner Nick Deml also gave a brief presentation.

We worked hard on our presentation, realizing that we had an opportunity to get the ear of policy-makers. Thanks to the loved ones and formerly incarcerated people who provided us with stories, we had some compelling information to share. We were able to point out the failings of the hedge-fund owned, for profit corporations that are the health care providers, including Wellpath, who took over the contract on July 1 and has shown to be no different from what came before.

Incarcerated people have no agency over their lives: they have little choice in what or when they eat, when they get recreation, and when and who they see for a health care provider. It is up to us, the people of Vermont in whose name they are locked away and stripped of agency, to do our best to see that they get the best care possible. Providing people with excellent health care, good healthy food, and proper education and training for their ultimate return to our communities, is expensive. It is an unsustainable system. Ultimately we need to rethink the incarcerative system and replace it with something community-based, humane, and supportive. But in the meantime, we must do our best to support the health and well-being of those behind bars.

— Meg McCarthy

Here are some links of interest:

The Power Point we presented to the committee

WCAX coverage of the hearing

The full recording of the hearing

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Vermont Just Justice is an all-volunteer organization. Help us continue to support Vermont’s incarcerated people and change our state’s criminal legal system.