Prisons Are Not Humane

The Vermont legislature appears to be going forward with the idea of building a new prison. The premise seems to be that, if you design a prison to be more humane, and build in more possibilities for training and education, then you are engaging in reform. But will these new prisons be surrounded by several fences and layers of razor wire? Will there still be a vehicle patrolling the perimeter? Will people still be strip-searched after visiting with their loved ones or on returning from a medical trip? Will the use of solitary confinement continue? Will people still be transported in the “chicken truck” sitting on benches in an unheated or uncooled panel truck, with no windows, shackled and unable to even buckle a seat belt? There’s no evidence that ending these practices are part of the discussion. But they are part of the daily trauma of being incarcerated. (more…)

By |2023-09-29T12:23:48+00:00September 28, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Reimagining Vermont

Abolition is about presence, not absence. It’s about building life-affirming institutions.” This quote by one of the prison abolition movement’s leaders, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, encapsulates why I choose abolition. I choose life, not death; I choose accountability not punishment; and I choose love not revenge. I come here today to make the case for abolition and insist that it is the time to transition our state away from incarceration. (more…)

By |2023-09-05T18:35:22+00:00September 5, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Private Prisons: A Bad Decision

It may come as a surprise that some Vermont inmates prefer to “go out of state.” It certainly comes as no surprise, given the abysmal conditions in Vermont’s prisons, that people convicted in our state want to be housed any place that is not home. I have been in both state prisons and housed out of state in for-profit facilities. I speak with some knowledge of both. It’s a fair question as to why anyone sentenced in Vermont wants to be far away. (more…)

By |2023-08-23T15:08:56+00:00August 23, 2023|Uncategorized|1 Comment

VJJ Goes to Montpelier

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. (more…)

By |2023-08-09T13:59:09+00:00August 9, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Health Care Accounts

Since the tragic death of David Mitchell in April, we have been gathering accounts from incarceration-impacted people around Vermont. The resulting stories, from currently and formerly incarcerated people and their friends and family, tells the real story of how people’s physical and mental health is being mistreated if not ignored in our prisons. Below are a dozen examples. (more…)

By |2023-07-07T10:58:53+00:00July 6, 2023|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Older and Sicker

When asked why the death rate in Vermont prisons has gone up so drastically, Corrections Commissioner Nick Deml replied that the prison population is getting older and sicker. It might have come as a surprise to some that we have so many old and / or sick people in our prisons. Some people might think that the people that we lock away are there because they’re scarey and dangerous. That they are there for our protection. In fact, they are there because we as a society insist upon punishment. They remain behind bars until they are old and frail because we feel they haven’t been punished enough. And so we have a geriatric, or long term care unit, where people are in wheelchairs and with walkers, some in various stages of dementia, are waiting to die. And we have people who die in prison. (more…)

By |2023-05-30T21:19:14+00:00May 30, 2023|Uncategorized|2 Comments

What’s Wrong with Vermont Prison Healthcare?

In December 2019, a man named Kenneth Johnson in the infirmary at the Northern State Correctional Facility was gasping for breath and begging staff to bring him to a hospital. Another man in the infirmary with him reported that he banged on the window for help, but was told by a corrections officer to knock it off or he’d take him to the hole — solitary confinement. Mr Johnson died before the sun rose the next morning. (more…)

By |2023-05-23T14:44:58+00:00May 23, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Change is Overdue at DOC

Your spouse, or loved one, or sibling, or child, has an encounter with the law. It can happen, doesn’t matter why. What then begins is a journey through our criminal justice system. The experience for the folks on the outside can be frightening, and is always hard, and frustrating, constantly disappointing, and is heartbreakingly real. The reality so stunning in the not-what-you-expected, or thought-you-knew or understood about the system ­— only to be horrified by the actual facts. From the moment of arraignment to the first days of incarceration to trying to navigate their draconian rules just to be a parent or loved one and to attempt to protect your loved one from the pitfalls of the system ­— and to try to work with the system — only to be slapped in the face with the reality that the system is broken. And they want it that way. (more…)

By |2023-05-09T17:06:48+00:00May 9, 2023|Uncategorized|2 Comments
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