Groups to host free public forum ‘Mass Incarceration and Vermont’

News Release — Root Social Justice Center
Jan. 4, 2016

Contact:
Mel Motel, Root Social Justice Center Collective Member
[email protected] or 802-254-3400 x. 2

BRATTLEBORO – The Root Social Justice Center is partnering with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform (VCJR) to host a free public forum, Mass Incarceration and Vermont. The event will be held at The Root Social Justice Center (28 Williams St., Brattleboro) from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 17.

“Vermont is known throughout the country for its progressive and family values,” says Sha’an Mouliert, a member of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform. However, her son, like hundreds of other Vermonters, was incarcerated out of state, far from home. While he was incarcerated in Kentucky, Sha’an remarked, “Christmases, birthdays, and other holidays — there is a big hole. My son is missing his children. I am missing him.”

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. It is tempting to place responsibility for mass incarceration on on large states like Texas, California, and New York and urban areas, thus avoiding addressing how Vermont’s prison policies are tearing families and communities apart. Yet the reality is that Vermont has one of the highest racial disparities in incarceration in the nation (according to The Sentencing Project, the ratio is greater than 10-1) and has been shipping prisoners to out-of-state private prisons since 2004. Bellows Falls is grappling with a proposal for a the construction of new facility that would include the addition of 155 jail beds.

Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform was formed in 2013 to address Vermont’s very own incarceration problem, on the belief that “the state will save money and create more productive communities by limiting incarceration to what works, based on evidence, and redirecting spending to job training, treatment, and education.”

At the Mass Incarceration and Vermont forum we will hear the stories of incarcerated Vermonters, their family members, and people working on changing the Vermont prison system. The event will feature videos and letters from VCJR’s “Stories Project” and a panel discussion. Panelists and presenters will explore the connections between mass incarceration in the United States and the Vermont prison system, how incarceration is affecting families and our communities, what is being done locally to make change, and how you can get involved.

“Seeing and hearing the stories of real people…encountering a system that is too often arbitrary, racist, brutal and dehumanizing… is the best way to raise awareness and bring about change,” says Suzi Wizowaty, the Executive Director of VCJR. “This event is an opportunity to hear those stories and learn ways to take action.”

The event is free and open to the public. ASL and childcare are provided. The event is wheelchair accessible and fragrance free. It will also be filmed by BCTV. Donations are appreciated.

Located on the ground floor of the Whetstone Studio for the Arts Building at 28 Williams St. in Brattleboro, The Root Social Justice Center provides a physically and financially accessible space to support and bring together communities working for social justice. The Root is a co-work office collective by day and a community space on evenings and weekends.

For more information on The Root Social Justice Center or on the forum, visit www.therootsjc.org or call 802-254-3400. For more information on Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, visit www.vermontersforcriminaljusticereform.org.

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