Daily Archives: January 16, 2023

A Bit of a Kerfuffle at the Ethan Allen Institute

Hey everybody, meet Myers Mermel, the new president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

For those unfamiliar, EAI is Vermont’s most prominent conservative “think tank,” best known for such influential operations as the seldom-heard Common Sense Radio and a steady supply of seldom-read opinion pieces. It was headed for many years by former vagabond John McClaughry, who remains a prolific writer of those opinion pieces. After he stepped out of leadership in 2013, former VTGOP chief Rob Roper took the reins. Roper retired last March, and was replaced by serially unsuccessful political candidate Meg Hansen.

Well, Hansen didn’t even last a year. She’s been ousted in an apparently messy process that culminated last night in Mermel’s razor-thin election to the presidency. The vote of the EAI board was reportedly five for Mermel, four for Hansen, and two abstaining.

Here I must pause to delineate established fact from informed hearsay. Mermel has confirmed he is now EAI’s president. He would not otherwise comment. Everything else I’m about to write comes from a single anonymous source, because official mouths are firmly zippered shut chez EAI.

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“Culture Change” at DOC is a Moral Imperative

More evidence that the long-awaited “culture change” at the Vermont Department of Corrections is still purely conceptual: A new study shows that the Southern State Correctional Facility at Springfield is a hellhole for inmates and staff alike.

It’s bad. Really, really bad. It’s not only an administrative and regulatory failure, it’s a moral failure. It reflects badly on anyone who’s had anything to do with our prison system in recent times: DOC officials, successive governors, union leadership, and the legislators with oversight responsibility. Anyone else? The Judiciary? Prosecutors?

Abigail Crocker, co-founder of the Justice Research Initiative, found many of the study’s results “alarming.” I think that’s an understatement.

One of those findings: 37% of the prison population, and 30% of prison staff, have had suicidal ideations.

So. In a place that’s supposed to be preparing inmates for productive re-entry into society, more than one-third of them are in despair or painfully close to it.

Well, you might say, of course people serving hard time might feel bad. But then you have to explain that 30% figure among staff, which indicates that the prison is just about as horrible for the workers as for the inmates.

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