Tag Archives: Vermont

For-profit prison company, CoreCivic, looks to build state facility

Source: Anne Galloway, VTDigger, January 16, 2018
 
A private company that owns and manages prisons is looking to build a 925-bed facility proposed by the Scott administration.  CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corp. of America, which owns 61 facilities in the United States, is lobbying lawmakers and the governor’s office for a contract to build and lease the facility to the state, according to a statement from the company.  CCA and the new company have been criticized for poor management of state and national prisons and have been the subject of several national exposes.  Jonathon Butler, director of public affairs for CoreCivic, said the company would not be operating any facility in Vermont. …

Burlington, Essex, others consider regionalizing dispatch

Source: Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Free Press, March 30, 2017

Chittenden County towns are exploring whether they can combine local dispatch offices into one regionalized dispatch center, which officials believe could increase the efficiency of providing emergency services. … However, many questions still remain, including whether this will cost or save towns and cities money and whether all dispatchers employed now will keep their jobs. … Colchester dispatcher Earl Benway, who has held his position for 16 years, says he’s in favor of the idea, but thinks the plan needs to be more specific. Benway serves as the vice president for the local union that includes dispatchers and other employees in the Burlington area, in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1343. Benway said there are concerns over whether employees will have to reapply for their jobs, what the pay scales may be and how a union may fit in. … Benway said one negative of consolidation will be losing the local, familiar relationships with police officers and the public that the dispatchers serve. … Representatives from Milton, Colchester and Shelburne say they’re interested by the idea that has been presented to them and are willing to work through many of the questions that remain. … Baker said the committee is pushing to get recommendations to the elected bodies in each town by this fall. Those elected bodies will then determine whether the plan can be brought to its residents on Town Meeting Day. …

New state rules could hurt school privatization

Source: Kayla Friedrich, Stowe Reporter, September 15, 2016

The Vermont State Board of Education is looking to raise the bar for independent schools to receive tax money from districts that offer school choice, which could make it tough to establish a private school in Stowe. Under the proposed rules, private schools would have to start accepting and accommodating all special education students — just as public schools are required to do — in order to collect tuition money from the state. Currently, if a school is designated as its community’s public school it has to meet all requirements for special education. Non-designated schools do not. … Moore argued that the new regulations would make it difficult for approved independent schools to continue accepting students who pay tuition with public funds, because the approval process for special education can be arduous. Schools like Thetford Academy, St. Johnsbury Academy, the Mountain School at Winhall, Burr and Burton, and the Village School of North Bennington are already equipped to serve all special-education students, but those like Sharon Academy can only serve a few categories at the moment. … The point of the new regulations is to make sure that private schools are offering to all students the same things that public schools are, Stephan Morse, chair of the State Board of Education, said. … In addition to providing special education services, approved private schools will have to receive accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as provide budget information to the public. According to Senecal, these regulations should reassure skeptics in the Stowe community that their goals could not be abandoned down the road. …

State politicians debate private prison contract

Source: Elizabeth Murray, Burlington Free Press, August 23, 2016

After the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would eliminate the use of private federal prisons last week, Vermonters are weighing in on whether the Green Mountain state should follow suit. Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard said in an email last week that her agency is focused on applying best correctional practices to manage its inmate population and reduce the number of inmates held for lack of housing. Menard said this focus has helped reduce the number of out-of-state prisoners, but the state’s reliance on private prison contracts for inmate overflow has remained intact. …

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DEFENDER GENERAL REASSURED ABOUT INCIDENT AT PRIVATE PRISON
Source: Elizabeth Hewitt, VT Digger, June 13, 2016

After an investigation into an incident at an out-of-state prison that houses Vermont inmates, a leading state official said he is not concerned. Two attorneys from the prisoners’ rights division of the defender general’s office traveled to Michigan last week to investigate a smattering of reports about conditions, including some reports that inmates were left without clothing and food. …

REPORTS FROM MICHIGAN PRISON PROMPT CONCERNS ABOUT CONDITIONS
Source: Elizabeth Hewitt, VT Digger, June 8, 2016

A series of disturbances at a private prison in Michigan that houses Vermont inmates prompted investigation by state officials. In late May, the advocacy group Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform heard reports that inmates in the segregation unit of the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan, had been stripped and their mattresses removed from their cells. The prison, which holds 236 Vermont prisoners, is run by the GEO Group. … Suzi Wizowaty, of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, said it is very difficult to get the full truth behind reports that come out of the private prisons that house Vermont inmates out of state. … According to Defender General Matt Valerio, the details of the incidents are still unclear. The reports have varied greatly, he said, and he will hear from the attorneys after they return to Vermont. … Defender general’s office staff members are in correctional facilities in Vermont every day, he said. They have relationships with superintendents, caseworkers and officers, and have opportunities to hear about issues directly from inmates. Distance is a challenge when it comes to maintaining oversight of the conditions out of state, Valerio said. The GEO Group has always been “accommodating and pleasant and professional” with the prisoner’s rights office, Valerio said. He added that he can’t say his office has “a close working relationship with them at all.”

Inmate sues private prison company alleging he was sexually harassed by a prison nurse
Source: Casey Tolan, Fusion, June 8, 2016

An inmate in Michigan is suing the second-largest largest private prison company in the country, alleging he was sexually harassed and molested by a nurse at his prison. In a handwritten lawsuit he filed against the GEO Group last week, Bernard Carter says a nurse at the North Lake Correctional Facility forced him to expose himself to her and touched him sexually without his consent. … But his suit is only the latest example of misconduct claims from Vermont inmates like himself who are sent across the country to the private facility. … According to Carter, 46, his harassment began in August 2015, soon after he arrived at the prison. It started with the nurse talking about his penis and how she wanted to have sex with him, but soon escalated, even after he told her to stop. … There are currently 195 inmates from Vermont who live at North Lake (at a cost to the state of $61.80 per person per day). …

Vermont’s Arrangement to House Inmates in Michigan Could Be at Risk
Source: Mark Davis, Seven Days, April 19, 2016

A plan gaining momentum in the Michigan Senate would see that state’s DOC close two of its oldest prisons, and send  inmates to North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Mich., which is privately owned by The GEO Group. The state of Michigan would lease the entire prison and run North Lake as a state facility, according to various media reports. Currently, 230 Vermont inmates are held in North Lake under a two-year, $30 million contract inked by the Vermont DOC and GEO last year. That contract allows either party to void it with five months notice. The Vermont DOC is aware of the proposal and has been in contact with key officials at GEO and the Michigan DOC in recent weeks, said Mike Touchette, Vermont DOC’s director of facility operations. … But Vermont may no longer be an important client for GEO. The DOC has slashed its out-of-state population to 236 inmates, down from 340 a year ago and  500 in 2014. …

Vermont Inmates Pine for Their Old Kentucky Prison
Source: Mark Davis, Seven Days, December 2, 2015

Five months later, inmates and the officials who advocate for them say they were better off in Kentucky. They claim the transition to the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Mich., has been rife with problems. Inmates accustomed to the open dorm-style living in Kentucky are now stuck in Michigan in windowless cells and allowed little freedom of movement. They no longer have access to many of the jobs, classes and activities that helped them pass the time — and stay out of trouble — in Kentucky. … Inmates who engaged with Seven Days described a chaotic transition during which rules were unclear and GEO seemed ill prepared to host them. North Lake, which had been mothballed for several years, received them just two months after GEO announced the two-year, $30 million contract with Vermont and began hiring new guards. In fact, the Vermonters are the only inmates in the 1,740-bed prison, which is about three hours northwest of Detroit.

Vermont official: Ky. prison monitored inmates before fight
Source: Wilson Ring, Associated Press, August 12, 2015

Vermont’s top advocate for prison inmates said Wednesday the staff at a private Kentucky prison did all it could to monitor two inmates before they got into a fight that landed one in the hospital in the weeks before his death. … A Kentucky State Police official said earlier that the agency had begun an investigation into the fight that injured Nicholson, but they learned of his death after being asked about it by The Associated Press. At Wednesday’s hearing Vermont Corrections Department officials told members of the committee that Corrections Corporation officials had informed the Kentucky State Police that Nicholson had died. After the hearing, Dominic Damato, the out-of-state manager for Vermont Corrections, said Vermont officials were told June 2 by Corrections Corporation that the Kentucky State Police had been informed of Nicholson’s death, but he could not say when that notification was made. … Corrections Corporation officials were asked repeatedly by the AP about why they hadn’t notified police of Nicholson’s death and they never answered specific questions about the notification. Jonathan Burns, a spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, on Wednesday referred any additional questions to the Vermont Department of Corrections or Kentucky State Police.
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School boards warned on privatization

Source: Kayla Friedrich, Stowe Reporter, June 30, 2016

Hard on the heels of Act 46 — Vermont’s education consolidation law — towns from Stowe to Manchester began to study the possibility of converting their public schools to independent in an effort to “maintain local control.” But last week, the Vermont School Boards Association told public school boards that they should not be involved in studying privatization. … However, Nicole Mace, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association, says it is critical for the board to be clear about all the pros and cons of choosing to close the public schools — especially since the board would no longer be directly accountable for education quality at any of the independent schools chosen by parents. An independent school is a private entity governed by a privately selected board of directors. The school board would still exist to pay tuition to another district or approved independent school for the children in its district, and to present a budget to the voters that is the total of all tuition invoices. … In Stowe, a small group of residents and educators — the Stowe Local Schools Initiative — has been working over the past year to determine if privatization would be a viable option for the community. The group plans to finalize a report this summer that will be delivered to the school board and community in the fall. The report will outline what it would take to close the elementary, middle and high schools and reopen them as independent schools. …

The Prison Visit That Cost My Family $2,370

Source: Eli Hager & Rui Kaneya, The Marshall Project, April 12, 2016

After decades of tough-on-crime policies, Hawaii is one of four states that solve their prison crowding problem by shipping inmates out of state, usually to facilities run by for-profit companies such as Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group. California prisoners go to Arizona and to the Mississippi Delta; Vermont prisoners go to a remote corner of Michigan; and Arkansas prisoners go to Texas. The U.S. Virgin Islands also sends its prisoners away, to Florida, Arizona and Virginia. … In all, more than 7,200 state prisoners across the nation are housed this way. That number may rise if Washington state follows through on a contract to send its overflow inmates to a GEO facility in Michigan or if North Dakota sends inmates to a CCA facility in Colorado, which the corrections director there has said is a possibility within the next few months. … Hawaii first began sending prisoners en masse to mainland prisons in 1995, when it secured beds in a privately run Texas facility. Over the years, Hawaii expanded the practice, shipping thousands of prisoners to 14 facilities across eight states.Today, under a $30-million-a-year contract with CCA, the state sends all its overflow prisoners to Saguaro, which was opened just for Hawaii in 2007 …

Hawaii pays CCA about $70 a day to house each inmate at Saguaro, compared with an average of $140 a day for an inmate at any of the four prisons back home. In Vermont, an out-of-state prison bed costs about $62 per day; in-state, the price tag is $162. For the U.S. Virgin islands, the choice is between as little as $67 on the mainland, versus $150 on the islands. (California’s complicated budget picture makes it more difficult to make a similar comparison.) … CCA is paid up to about $185 million per year by California and Hawaii for out-of-state space, and GEO gets as much as about $15 million a year from Vermont to house prisoners in Michigan. Arkansas spends up to $4.75 million a year for LaSalle Southwest Corrections to operate the jail in Bowie County, Texas, where its overflow inmates are kept.

Lawmakers eye outsourcing of state jobs

Source: The Barre Montpelier Times Argus, April 12, 2016

This week, the Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to approve a bill that would delay the outsourcing of the work done by the office that oversee state workers’ compensation claims. … The jobs in question are within the Office of Risk Management, which includes 12 employees and has an annual budget of approximately $2 million. The office handles workers’ compensation and liability claims for state employees. In January, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson requested bids from private companies interested in performing the work. In March, administration officials revealed they had received eight bids from private companies, none of which are located in Vermont. The bids came from companies located in Arizona, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine and New Hampshire. …

Settlement reached on costs in prison records access case

Source: Rutland Herald, November 6, 2015

A 2013 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont against the Corrections Corporation of America over public records access has been settled. … CCA did not provide the documents, saying as a private contractor it was not subject to public record law disclosure requirements. A judge ruled that CCA met the criteria, saying imprisonment “is one of the most intrinsically governmental of functions.” The ACLU says the settlement reached this week regards fees and costs to plaintiffs.

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Legal settlement extends public records laws to out-of-state Prison Contractor
Source: Elizabeth Hewitt, Vermont Digger, November 5, 2015

A court case settled this week involving access to records held by a private out-of-state prison contractor could have implications for other public records in Vermont. After more than two-and-a-half years of litigation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, on behalf of Prison Legal News, and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) settled a case involving access to records held by the private prison contractor. CCA had refused to supply Prison Legal News, national monthly news service, with records relating to lawsuits brought by Vermont inmates housed in the CCA’s private prison facilities.

Court Rules Public Records Suit Against Prison Firm Can Proceed
Source: American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, ACLU of Vermont blog, January 14, 2014

A state superior court has denied an attempt by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit prison company, to dismiss a public records suit filed against it. The lawsuit, filed by Prison Legal News, a monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, seeks records related to the treatment of Vermont prisoners held in out-of-state CCA prisons. Each year, about a third of Vermont’s prison population spends time in CCA-operated facilities in Beattyville, Kentucky and Mason, Tennessee. While there, CCA provides Vermont prisoners with everything that the state’s Department of Corrections would: uniforms, food, recreation and supervision. The state has paid CCA about $73 million since July 2007. … CCA moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Vermont’s public records law does not extend to private corporations. In opposing the motion, PLN argued that private contractors performing government functions are the equivalent of government agencies, and thus subject to the state’s public records law. On January 9, 2014, the superior court agreed with PLN, denying CCA’s motion and ordering further proceedings. …

Inmate articulates concerns about conditions at Michigan Prison

Source: Elizabeth Hewitt, vtdigger.com, August 2, 2015

One month after Vermont inmates arrived at a privately run prison facility in northern Michigan, an inmate is voicing concerns about the conditions there. … The state recently terminated a contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, and began using a new for-profit prison company, the GEO Group Inc., based in Michigan. Last month, 280 Vermont prisoners were transferred by air from two facilities in Kentucky and Arizona to a single correctional facility in Baldwin, Michigan. … Bryer writes that there was no process for sick calls when inmates first arrived, and that medical services are not available at all on weekends and holidays. There are no windows in the building, and inmates get one hour of outdoor recreation a day, Bryer says. Some items in the commissary cost double what they did at the CCA facility in Kentucky, according to Bryer, and he says there are no curtains for the showers….

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Editorial: Profiting from prisons
Source: Toledo Blade, June 11, 2015

Nobody doubts that Michigan needs more jobs. But setting up a privatized penal colony for some of the nation’s most dangerous inmates is not the way to treat them. In a fit of bad judgment, Michigan lawmakers narrowly passed a bill last month that would allow GEO, a multinational private correctional services provider, to bring some of the most dangerous offenders from Vermont and Washington state and house them in the former “punk prison” in Baldwin. The prison is in northern Michigan’s rural Lake County, one of the state’s poorest. … Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder reportedly has not yet decided whether to sign this bill. He should instead strike a blow for common sense and decency and veto it, without further delay.

Second private sector prison company, with a bad track record, vying for a piece of Michigan
Source: Tim Skubick, MLive.com, May 20, 2015

…. Enter the GEO Group, a private prison company which operates some 85,000 beds around the country and it wants to add Michigan to its roster. A bill would hire the Florida firm to reopen the moth-balled so-called Punk Prison in Baldwin. …. What appeared to be a fast track effort has been slowed down to a crawl in the Senate, where some have raised concerns about the possible “warehousing” of inmates and whether they are given rehab services. That from Sen. Patrick Colebeck, R-Plymouth. GEO is no stranger to Michigan as it ran the original punk prison and various state agencies concluded it was more expensive than many of the other facilities and by closing it, the state would save over $7 million. The company complained the auditor general’s report was “skewed.” It was finally shuttered but GEO is back for another bite of the prison apple which some folks feel is poisoned. ….

Vermont DOC Moving Out-of-State Inmates to Michigan
Source: Steph Machado, My Champlain Valley, May 19, 2015

Vermont will be moving 318 prisoners from Kentucky and Arizona to Michigan. The Department of Corrections announced a new contract with the company GEO, which owns the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan. The inmates are currently in facilities owned by CCA, whose contract with Vermont is expiring. …. The state will be paying GEO less than it paid CCA–about $600,000 less annually, at the current out-of-state population of 318. ….

Bill to open private prison clears state House
Source: Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, May 7, 2015

GEO Group officials say allowing the company to house prisoners from other states with the highest security levels would give them the flexibility they need to make the prison economically viable. …. A bill that’s expected to allow Michigan’s former “punk prison” to open as a privately run adult facility housing prisoners from other states passed the state House in a narrow vote Thursday. House Bill 4467 was approved 57-53, and now moves on to the Senate. The bill removes a restriction that prevents the Florida-based GEO Group, which wants to reopen and operate the former private youth prison near Baldwin, from accepting prisoners with the highest security levels — those above Level 4. …. As proposed, the bill would also allow GEO to take inmates from Michigan prisons, but the company says that’s not part of its plans. A Michigan Department of Corrections official said that the state has no interest in sending Michigan inmates to the private prison. ….

Michigan House votes to let private prison house high-security inmates from other states
Source: Jonathan Oosting, Mlive.com, May 7, 2015

The Michigan House on Thursday narrowly approved legislation aimed to help one of the country’s largest private prison companies bring out-of-state inmates to its shuttered facility in Baldwin. House Bill 4467, approved in a 57-53 vote, would allow The GEO Group Inc. to house Level V high-security inmates at the now-empty North Lake Correctional Facility…. State Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, spoke out against the bill, calling it “a form of backdoor privatization of state prisons” because it would also allow the state to house Level V inmates there, if it chooses to at a later date. Singh also said that GEO Group has “a spotty track record across the country, but also here in the state of Michigan.” He pointed to a 2005 Michigan audit, fines for understaffing in New Mexico, a prisoner escape in Arizona, and a scathing Justice Department report about a Mississippi youth prison that GEO Group took over in late 2010. ….

Bill would allow private prison near Baldwin to re-open
Source: Paul Egan, Lansing State Journal, April 23, 2015

The former “punk prison” near Baldwin would re-open as a private prison housing adult inmates from other states, bringing about 150 jobs to one of the most economically depressed areas of the state, under a bill taken up Thursday by a House committee. As proposed, the bill would also allow the prison, operated by the Florida-baed GEO Group, to take inmates from Michigan prisons, but the company says that’s not part of its plans and a Michigan Department of Corrections official said the state has no interest in sending Michigan inmates to the private prison, which has been closed for about four years. House Bill 4467 would remove a restriction that prevents GEO from accepting prisoners with the highest security levels — those above Level 4. GEO officials say allowing the company to also bring Level 5 and Level 6 prisoners from other states would give them the flexibility they need to make the prison economically viable…. The prison near Baldwin opened as a private youth prison in 1998 under former Gov. John Engler, a Republican. Ot closed in 2005, under former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, amid reports it was too costly to run and neglected the health and educational needs of its young inmates. Later, under the GEO Group, it briefly housed inmates from California, with the restrictions in place on the security levels of the inmates, but closed in 2011….

Federal Beds To Keep More Vermont Prisoners In Kentucky
Source: Laura Krantz, VT Digger, January 19, 2015

A deal in the works to house more federal inmates in Vermont prisons will hamper the state’s effort to reduce the number of local prisoners incarcerated in Kentucky and Arizona, the corrections commissioner said Monday. Vermont contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service to house up to 40 federal prisoners in Vermont prisons. The feds pay the state $129 per prisoner per day. … The deal will be good for the state’s pocketbook, but bad for the DOC’s goal of reducing the number of prisoners it houses with private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America.

Advocates renew push to keep inmates in VT
Source: Terri Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff, August 17, 2014

…. A group of advocates is making a push to halt the long trips, the separation of inmates from family and the use of a for-profit company to house prisoners. About 25 people gathered in Burlington on a recent evening to strategize how to keep Vermont from renewing the out-of-state prison contract with Corrections Corporation of America when it comes due next year. … The group plans to launch a drive Sept. 22 titled “Locked Up & Shipped Away” and hopes to collect petitions from the Vermonters urging public officials to stop sending Vermont inmates out of state, Wizowaty said. Group members also plan to organize efforts to ask political candidates for their support at candidate forums through the fall. The group plans to hold organizational meetings in the coming weeks in Burlington, Montpelier and Brattleboro. … Wizowaty wants to halt or shorten the state’s next contract for out-of-state prison beds. Time and simple short-term math are working against her, but the state is looking for new options with a new contract. … Richard Byrne, the state Corrections Department’s out-of-state unit supervisor, said he is in the process of sending notices to states, counties and private prison operators that might have space. The state likely will put out a formal request for proposals in September to replace the existing four-year CCA contract, which expires June 30. … As of last week, because the state’s own prison were full, Vermont had 482 inmates serving time in two out-of-state prisons run by Corrections Corporation of America: 444 in Beattyville, Ky., and 38 in Florence, Ariz.

Manchester, Dorset may consolidate emergency services

Source: Associated Press, June 18, 2015

Two southern Vermont communities are considering consolidating police, fire and rescue services. Vermont Public Radio reports members of the Manchester and Dorset select boards met with leaders from Manchester Village more than a year ago to discuss consolidating emergency services in hopes of saving money and providing at least the same level of service. Consultants have recommended turning the Manchester Rescue Squad into a municipal agency within the town’s fire department. They also found that Dorset is inadequately served by its separate fire departments. They say the town lacks adequately trained volunteers, there’s a cultural feud between the districts, and the town’s equipment exceeds its need.