Courts & Corrections

Vermont finalizing new out-of-state prison contract

(This story was updated for the second time April 10 at 6:50 p.m.)

A Vermont high-ranking official has confirmed that the state is “very close” to finalizing a new contract to house Vermont prisoners out of state.

Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille said Monday that Vermont has been in talks with the state of Pennsylvania. He would not provide any details about the discussions, except to say the two states were “very close” to reaching an agreement.

Vermont’s current contract with a private prison company, the GEO Group, expires in June. The new agreement would mark a departure from the current out-of-state contract because it would be with a public, not a private, entity.

Amy Worden, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, confirmed the states are working on an agreement.

“We’re engaged in discussions about the transfer of inmates, but nothing has been finalized yet,” Worden said.

Worden said the standard rate Pennsylvania charges to house inmates from other states is $72 a day.

Currently about 260 Vermont inmates are held at a private facility near Baldwin, Michigan. In December, the GEO Group notified the state that it would not extend the current two-year agreement. The Vermont inmates are the only ones in a facility that can hold up to 1,000 prisoners.

The daily rate per inmate under the current GEO Group contract is $61.80.

Several hundred Vermont inmates have been held at out-of-state prisons for decades due to limits on space in facilities within the state. At the peak, about 800 Vermont inmates were incarcerated out of state in 2008, according to Department of Corrections records.

Despite calls by some public officials to have all prisoners kept in Vermont, the cost is significantly less to house prisoners out of state.

About 1,800 prisoners are incarcerated in Vermont and out of state.

Suzi Wizowaty, of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, said news of the new contract was “disappointing.” She and others urged lawmakers earlier this year to end the out-of-state program when the current contract expires by reducing the number of people incarcerated in Vermont through several reforms.

“We had the opportunity to use the deadline as a way to actually take some real action to reduce unnecessary incarceration in Vermont,” Wizowaty said.

There are people behind bars in Vermont “who really don’t need to be,” she said. Moving prisoners between facilities is an uncomfortable process for them, she said, because of restraints used in transit and anxiety.

Wizowaty said that using a public corrections system rather than a private corporation could be of benefit because there is potentially more public oversight. However, she still has concerns.

“How the conditions will be remains to be seen,” Wizowaty said.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • Ricci Ropes

    “Moving prisoners between facilities is an uncomfortable process for them, she said, because of restraints used in transit and anxiety.” AS IT SHOULD BE. Being incarcerated should be uncomfortable. Similar to the discomfort caused to the victims of their crimes. Prison should be an experience they never want to return to after being released. Vermonters for Victims Justice Reform said news of the new contract was “awesome”.

  • sandybettis

    I thought we were going to stop using out of state (for profit) prisons???

  • Jason Brisson

    If we can’t house them in state, should we be putting them away? Home confinement seems a way cheaper route for nonviolent offenders.

    • Pat McGarry

      You are assuming that such offenders have a long term home. Most offenders, violent or otherwise, have an indeterminate sentence like 2 to 12 years. They can usually be released on community supervision at their minimum if they have a DOC approved residence. Lack of Residence is a huge problem. See http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Legislative-Reports/Act-43-Sec-4-Community-Housing-Plan-Report.pdf

      • Jason Brisson

        No such assumption was made. There is no reason home confinement can’t be served at their parents house, or a relatives, or a friends, as long as the conditions are met. If no sufficient “home” is available for home confinement, its pretty obvious that solution is not available to/won’t work for that person. It’s a problem when we remove people from society, throw them in a box for 2-12 years, don’t teach them any meaningful skills to better themselves/their lives when they get out, and then dump them back on the street. What exactly have we done, to reduce the risk that they will re-offend?

        • sandybettis

          Sometimes the parents’ house is the last place that they should be…..

      • sandybettis

        DOC used to have apts that they kept for inmates when they came out of prison – they did away with that program in the early 2000s – ever since then, housing has been a huge problem….

  • Tim Vincent

    “Moving prisoners between facilities is an uncomfortable process for them, she said, because of restraints used in transit and anxiety”
    Awwww, that’s awful…..or something.
    Why would prison be “comfortable?”

  • Maria D’Haene

    Over $400.00 a week to house inmates. I wonder what foster parents get a week for taking in the most vulnerable Vermonters.

  • Gary Dickinson

    Can we send the out-of-state felons out of state and keep the locals local?

  • Barbara Germon

    Someone I know and love is being held out of state on misdemeanor convictions; I always thought loss of freedom was the punishment. It is disheartening to read fellow Americans and I assume, Vermonters, wishing all the ill will they can muster on top of the loss of freedom. Many of Vermont CO’s feel the same and the contempt they breed just “because they can” should in and of itself be criminal. I guess nobody in Vermont cares about human rights unless it’s their own fanny in the sling. To think I used to love this state and all the people in it, since my own family arrived here long before there was even a state called Vermont, died for and fought in virtually every war ever waged on American soil.. and later in wars across the seas. What a shameful lot of people it now holds and in my opinion, those who wish the worst for men who are serving their due are actually more criminal than our own prisoners.
    The for profit prison in MI is NOT closing, despite the rumors. I’ve heard that Vermont doesn’t pay their bills and don’t give a hoot about conditions elsewhere, or even in state, for that matter. They only pretend concern when enough people draw attention to specific situations and then any relief that comes about is short lived. However, any prison run by for profits seem to be managed far better than the facilities Vermont operates, where staff is allowed to heckle and tease and needle their caged humans. At least the out of state facilities leave the men alone to do their time. So it’s surprising to me how a better job can be done with less money; one would think it would be the other way around.. maybe it’s time for out of state facilities who are asked to imprison our men for us to be charging double. Then someone might dream up a way to stop sending them out of state in a hurry. And only then will they stop throwing everyone in prison who can’t buy a good attorney for themselves. It’s a system for the poorest among us, you know. But then, everyone likes to blame the poor too, so ..either way ..