At least one of Vermont’s Superior Court judges could benefit from a stint in the hoosegow — purely as an educational experience. But maybe a couple days behind bars should be a requirement for the job. After all, they send plenty of people to prison; shouldn’t they have first-hand experience of the “correctional” experience?
The judge in question is Samuel Hoar, who just dismissed a lawsuit by inmate Mandy Conte over unsanitary conditions in Vermont’s women’s prison. Hoar’s opinion could have been delivered by the unghosted version of Ebenezer Scrooge. In it, he acknowledged the disgusting conditions in the prison’s shower facilities, but decided to do nothing about it.
Sounds like he needs a long rinse in the showers that, according to the inmate who filed suit, “reeked of human waste and were infested with sewer flies, maggots and mold.”
Before we go on, I should mention that Hoar is the same judge who almost lost his seat in 2019 over allegations of “sexist, degrading and condescending behavior toward women.” The charges put an extra twist in what’s usually a pro forma reappointment process, but in the end Hoar was given another six years on the bench.
And this is the dude who rejected very valid complaints from a female inmate. I smell a pig.
After the jump: A deeper dive into Hoar’s terrible ruling.
Seven Days‘ Paul Heintz wrote that the judge “likened conditions in a shower room at the state’s women’s prison to an outhouse. But, he wrote, the situation was not dire enough to warrant action by the court.”
So, taking a shower in an outhouse is just fine? Your Honor, there’s a Porta-Potty with youir name on it.
Sewer flies and all, Hoar wrote, the showers were nothing more than “episodically unpleasant.” After all, he might have added, with conditions like that, you’re going to be spending as little time as possible in the shower.
Hoar found that the state had taken reasonable steps to address some of the problems cited in Conte’s suit and argued that while the court could force the department to do its job, it could not tell the department how to do its job.
Which is a distinction without a difference in practical terms. I mean, doesn’t it depend on how you define the Corrections Department’s “job”? If you say the job is to keep inmates alive and behind bars, then sure. If, on the other hand, you say that the state has chosen to relieve inmates of their freedom — and thus, should be required to keep inmates safe and in good condition. That is, if you mean prisons as places for inmates to undergo “correction,” rather than simple punishment.
I’d think being treated like a human being with innate worth is a prerequisite for “correcting” inmates and preparing them to live productive lives after their sentences are up. That ought to involve, if nothing more, basic sanitation and security.
But the judge chose to wash his hands of the whole thing. He might have sung a different tune if he’d been forced to spend some time in a shower stall with “sewer flies, maggots and mold.”