Solitary Confinement in Vermont

“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit… whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,”
— Juan E. Méndez , UN Special Rapporteur on torture, 2011

The United Nations considers solitary confinement, particularly anything beyond 15 days, as torture, and should be banned as a punishment technique. It is defined as “confinement of prisoners for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact.” If so, then surely it is not used in any correctional facility in Vermont, right?

Wrong. (more…)

By |2022-09-22T20:52:19+00:00September 22, 2022|Commentary|3 Comments

Words Matter

Society puts labels on some people the from the moment they are born. Sometimes it takes a little longer. For the most part, we no longer accept some of the cruel epithets we apply to people who are different from ourselves. Except for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.

Walk through the gates of any jail, and most of your human identity will be stripped away. You are no longer “you,” a person with a name, history, family and friends, home and education. You’re a six-digit ID, a cell number, living in a cookie-cutter cell block, unit, or pod. Now you’re a convict, a prisoner, inmate, felon, lifer, and every LGBTQ+ insult and swear word imaginable. Your crime/s — that’s your identity. Junkie, crackhead, death-dealing scum of the earth. Thief, rapist, kidnapper, murderer. (more…)

By |2022-09-16T12:39:49+00:00September 14, 2022|Commentary|0 Comments

Reflections on Restorative Justice

I thought I might just give you a few reflections today, to try to relate a few of my experiences as an agent in the traditional criminal justice system for over 30 years with the experience I had with the restorative justice model more recently.

But, first, permit me to read:

The Law is a rational entity represented by a collection of individuals endlessly replaced, whose good intentions and whose memories are, like themselves, itinerant. The [courts and the police ] in their diverse functions can do nothing to prevent crime, but they are constituted only to deal with cases as they arise.

These words, published in the 1840’s in France, resonate with my experience of the traditional criminal justice system, even today. The author of these words, the novelist Balzac, goes on to bemoan the lack of legislative support for a more robust preventive role for the police and, today, despite some advances in community policing, the situation today often remains unchanged. (more…)

By |2022-09-05T13:40:43+00:00September 5, 2022|Commentary|0 Comments

Criminal Justice Reform?

It seems like a myth.

What seems so obvious to so many of us, is that how we incarcerate people – and what we do with them – or don’t do – IS NOT WORKING. Those opposed to this vital need for change don’t see anything wrong with the current system. They don’t see it as Draconian. Black’s Law Dictionary defines Draconian Laws as: A code of laws prepared by Draco, the celebrated lawgiver of Athens. These laws were exceedingly severe, and the term is now sometimes applied to any laws of unusual harshness. This applies to the Codes, Policies and Directives which are the laws within the prison system, as well as post incarcerate supervision. (more…)

By |2022-08-30T13:20:53+00:00August 29, 2022|Commentary|5 Comments
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