The House Appropriations Committee is putting in long hours this week, trying to finish work on the budget by Friday afternoon. I don’t envy them their task… but I will point out one little detail regarding one of its proposed cuts.
One of the cuts in committee chair Mitzi Johnson’s list is the closure of the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor. Well, according to Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito, that would mean sending another 100 inmates to out-of-state, for-profit prisons.
Vermont has been making strides toward bringing its inmates home — possibly inspired by last summer’s court ruling that sending male inmates out-of-state without also sending female inmates is unconstitutional. The state chose not to appeal for fear the decision would be applied to the whole system. As it stood, only the inmate who filed suit was brought back to Vermont.
But the legal Sword of Damocles still hangs by a hair, so dozens of inmates have been repatriated in recent months. The out-of-state count is down to 340.
The fly in the ointment is that our contract with the Corrections Corporation of America calls for a minimum census of 380 inmates. If the count falls below that and stays there long enough, CCA can impose penalties.
That’d be inconvenient.
Our Democratic rulers seem to be taking steps to prevent that from happening. Gov. Shumlin’s budget proposal included the lease of 60 inmate beds to the U.S. Marshal’s office. And now we have a plan to close a state prison. The lease is a revenue source; the prison closure is a budget savings; and on top of that, we get the added bonus of avoiding penalties!
Everybody wins, right?
Well, everybody except the inmates we’ll continue to ship out of state, far away from their families and friends.