TJ steps up

Will wonders never cease. No sooner than the U.S. Justice Department decides to ease its way out of the private prison business, than the Democratic candidate for Attorney General forcefully advocates the same move for Vermont.

What’s more, he believes it will be simple. From an email blast received Saturday evening:

There is a lot we need to do for criminal justice reform, but most people would agree that we should stop shipping Vermonters to out-of-state, for-profit prisons.

… This is one obvious step I believe we can take in the first 100 days of the next legislative session in 2017.


Considering that the administration and Legislature has been fecklessly batting around this issue for years, I’d like to know more about how Donovan believes we could get out of private prisons by the end of next March.

I have to admit, I haven’t been paying much attention to the AG race. It’s taken a back seat to the campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor, and it’s not like Donovan will be seriously challenged by Deb Bucknam. But it’s heartening to see a solidly progressive proposal coming from TJ. And it sparks fresh hope that our next AG will quickly put an end to the general somnolence of the Age of Sorrell.

Also makes me wonder, if it’s as simple as Donovan says it is, why the Democrats have been farting around with it for years.


9 thoughts on “TJ steps up

  1. chuck gregory

    You might want to look at Buckram’s right-wing rant about the Dept. of Education’s dictum that private schools ought to have the same services available to special needs students as public schools do. I was surprised she didn’t include among the two dozen dog whistles at least one reference to the Second Amendment.

  2. Brooke Paige

    Thomas “T.J.” Donovan will be able to “phone in” his campaign against Deb Bucknam.

    Bucknam’s pronouncements to date have given even the casual observer the impression that she has no understanding of the duties and responsibilities of the office she seeks.

    Her keynote innovation was to have the A/G’s office act as a defender of individual citizens who felt they had been wronged by the state government, as Bucknam explained “sort of like the public defender’s office.” Of course the problem with this “idea” is that it represents an irreconcilable conflict of interest in so much as the A/G’s office couldn’t represent the assuaged citizen and the state at the same time ! (FYI – the Public Defender’s office operates under the auspices of the Vermont Supreme Court, not the A/G’s office – a fact Deb appeared unaware of at least at the time of her announcement)

    It would be helpful if both these candidates began to explain the ideas and philosophies for overseeing the long neglected Attorney General’s office. While Mr. Donovan and Mr. Sorrell seemed at odds in 2012, here of late they have been acting as best of friends. Actually like father and son, as Billy has been taking “T.J: around to his political campaign “honey holes” introducing him at the Democratic Attorney General Association like a proud father introducing his son to the customers of the family business. The two share a “social justice” agenda that far too often seems to express an advocacy for the criminal at the expense of the victims. They both seem more concerned with minimizing punishment for criminal activity instead of attempting to maintain “law and order!”

    As to Sorrel’s propensity to treat the office as a “social advocacy special interest law firm” it is too soon to see if Donovan has the same vision as Bill – however he has not expressed any criticism with the Sorrell’s alarming conduct. At least Donovan will have been elected to the office from the start – that’s more than could be said for Sorrell’s assentation to the office. (Sorrell was given the office as a consolation prize after his boyhood buddy, Howard Dean, failed to get his a seat on the Vermont Supreme Court. When Howard failed to get Bill on the court, he nominated Jeffrey Amestoy, the then current A/G, to the bench and freeing up the A/G slot for his former play pal and best friend, Billy. With the power of incumbency, Howard had bestowed Vermont with its Eternal General who interminably planted himself on the third floor of the Pavilion Building.

    Fortunately, “T.J.” is too ambitious to be satisfied serving as Vermont’s next Eternal General as he fancies himself the heir to the Leahy legacy (another Chittenden Co. State’s Attorney who skyrocketed to the national stage), so Vermont should have the opportunity to elect another A/G, sooner rather than later !

    1. timothyrburgessgmailcom

      If one examines the record of Thomas “TJ” Donovan, as Mr. Brooks clearly has not in is vitriol reply, one would understand that Mr. Donovan has been a State’s attorney with a record of protecting the rights of people who have been harmed by others. In fact his record is outstanding in this area.

      The reality that appears to fall on the deaf ears of the Mr. Brooks is that once a criminal has been sentenced for, or found guilty of a crime, here in Vermont, the wrong answer is to ship the offender away. The practice of exporting offenders fails to provide the State with the opportunity for rehabilitation. The opportunity for the offender to to provide any sort of reparations to the victim or the community that was harmed is gone. Further, this practice takes jobs away from Vermonters.

      While one can see the clear political taint that Mr. Brooks insinuates, based on his own political accomplishments, it should be clear that one of the many the jobs of Attorney General, by statute, is to represent the State ” In all criminal and civil matters…” The State of Vermont is subjected to a number of lawsuits as a result of the practices that take place by the owners of these warehouses for prisoners that contribute nothing to the re-integration or rehabilitation of people who have committed crimes.

      1. Brooke Paige

        Mr. Burgess,

        You provide supportive words for Thomas without providing any details of his “outstanding record.” Nice that he has a vocal cheerleader in his camp, however it would be nicer if your admiration was accompanied with some detail. If he was so universally respected, how is it that his unknown Democratic primary opponent received nearly 20% of the vote statewide, despite the total lack of media coverage ? Just Curious.

        I am unsure how you come to the conclusion that I favor warehousing prisoners out-of-state. I DO NOT as I believe their absence for contact with family and community only complicates, and frequently defeats, their ability to successfully reenter society once their term of incarceration has been served.

        It makes no economic sense to have these individuals sent out-of-state, as the transactional benefit from payroll, services and supplies being expended in Vermont is lost to communities that would host the correctional facilities. The private corporations have little incentive to rehabilitate of train their wards while under their care. The ultimate costs of recidivism far outweighs any immediate savings from this decision, without accounting for the community and societal devastation that results from encouraging this revolving door policy

        H. Brooke Paige
        Washington, Vermont. .

  3. timothyrburgessgmailcom

    Mr. Brooks,

    I dare say that 80% of the vote in a Statewide primary which by your own account had “a total lack of media coverage”, is a record that stands on its own merit, as does the record of Mr. Donovan. TJ Donovan’s ingenuity with programs such as the rapid intervention court, or the Suspended license program speaks volumes about his commitment to Vermont and Vermonters.

    It was the the tenor of your comments, Mr. Brooks, that led me to my conclusion regarding your stand on Private prisons. That, and the fact that you chose this forum to attack Mr. Donovan. Phrases such as “The two share a “social justice” agenda that far too often seems to express an advocacy for the criminal at the expense of the victims. They both seem more concerned with minimizing punishment for criminal activity instead of attempting to maintain “law and order!” Seems to support the lock them up and throw away the key policy that private prisons thrive on. I am glad to hear that you are not in favor of such policies or behaviors. It is not good for Vermont or any State.

    1. Brooke Paige

      The Fallacy of the License Restoration Program.

      Sadly, the license restoration program (“suspended license program”) is a prime example of how justice should not be twisted to allow the advocates to appear so companionate.

      This program clearly communicates that scofflaws (those that scoff at law) will be rewarded for their behavior. Where is the justice for the citizen of modest means who scrapes together the cash to pay his fines and penalties, when others, who did not pay their obligation, are allowed to get off the hook in the cheap. Of course those who cannot pay currently have a mechanism to have the debt reduced or scheduled so they can tend to their obligations. It is an insult to the law abiding, who diligently satisfied their obligation to see literally hundreds line up to have their hundreds of dollar (an in some cases thousands of dollar) fines and penalties wiped out for a “Grant or a “Benjamin.”

      Those who legitimately cannot pay can petition the court and arrange installments or ask for part of their obligation forgiven. Most of the folks who took advantage of this program had just ignored their tickets and continued to drive even after their driving privileges were revoked (often resulting in their auto insurance being automatically revoked – thus further compounding their unlawful motor vehicle operation)

      The amnesty program did not require the participants to demonstrate financial hardship or explain the circumstances that led to their inability to satisfy the obligation. Further, there was no requirement that the drivers provide proof of insurance, that the vehicle they intended to operate was properly registered and inspected. If they couldn’t be bothered to keep their driver’s license “clean” how could there be a presumption that they appreciated their other obligations under the motor vehicle regulations.

      Independent of the hundreds of thousands of dollars revenue that was due the state from the fines, penalties and interest:- the state needed every cent that it was due. Why would any rational individual feel a pressing need to satisfy their obligation to pay for their tickets when the state has communicated that failing to do so is no longer an important matter?

      It’s just another one of those archaic “law and order” deals that officials like Sorrell and Donovan diminish with their “feel good” social justice.

      H. Brooke Paige
      Washington, Vermont

      BTW – Another way for those who can ill-afford to pay big fines is to avoid committing the motor vehicle violations that result in being issued tickets – the modest twist on the old adage “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t pay the fine !”

      1. timothyrburgessgmailcom

        Mr. Paige,

        I learned long ago, from a man who know what political party he truly belonged to, the getting in to a (missing word) match with a skunk is an unwise decision. Thank you, sir, for clarifying the term scofflaw, for those who may be reading this and don’t understand it, I am not one. While healthy debate is a good thing. We can agree to disagree on this issue.

      2. Brooke Paige

        Mr. Burgess,

        I did believe that you knew the origin and meaning of “scofflaw” and was writing for the wider audience. Not so sure how I get classified as a skunk, however I am obviously not running for the Ms. Congeniality award here !

        I do know what political philosophy I support, unfortunately there is no “classic liberal” party (whose members stand for small governance and expansive personal liberty). Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Liberty-Union or Libertarians – all have agendas and dicta that reflect infringements on the citizen of various types and to varying degrees. I am one who has his own set of values and tend to resist bending to the popular will of “party,” nevertheless do wish others to know what I stand for and hope some might consider adopting at least some of my positions.

        Nothing slick or too highbrow; hopefully, just a little common sense !

        Best Wishes,

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