By Guy Page
Negotiations to move Vermont inmates from a Mississippi prison to to just across the Connecticut River from Bradford failed because the Haverhill, N.H., facility lacks necessary drug treatment programs, Human Services Agency Secretary Mike Smith said at a press conference Friday.
The $31 million Grafton County House of Corrections opened in 2012 and is only one-third full. The Journal-Opinion, the weekly newspaper located in Bradford, reported Oct. 3 that the state of Vermont renewed the Mississippi contract to house about 200 Vermont inmates after talks with New Hampshire collapsed. Inmate advocates have criticized Vermont’s policy of outsourcing corrections services to privately-run prisons located in distance states. Despite efforts to reduce instate prison populations, Vermont’s correctional facilities cannot house inmates currently held out-of-state.
Vermont Daily asked Gov. Phil Scott at his press conference Friday: “The Department of Corrections recently discussed with the state of New Hampshire moving our inmates from Mississippi to a nearly empty prison in Haverhill but decided against it. Why didn’t that work out?” Gov. Scott referred the question to Smith, who said: “We did look at Haverhill, New Hampshire, when we were looking to bring back our inmates to Vermont. The reason Haverhill didn’t meet the needs at that time is that they did not have the medical programs that we needed, within that facility.”
He cited in particular the lack of a MAT (Medication-Assisted Therapy) program. MAT involves the use of specialized drugs to reduce opiate cravings and addiction.
“Putting all those programs into that facility would have been time consuming and would have been expensive,” Smith said.
Other news from the press conference:
- When asked by Vermont Daily, Gov. Scott confirmed there have been no Covid-19 diagnoses among appointed or “exempt” employees in his administration. “Not that I know of,” he said; a moment later he added, “I would know.” Exempt employees include elected statewide officials, agency and department heads, agency and department deputies, executive or principal assistants, private secretaries, and others not covered by a state of Vermont pay plan.
- Vermont’s ailing hospitality industry, including restaurants, will need financial help this winter, Gov. Scott said. The governor is hopeful the federal government “will come to the aid of the states” either before or after the election. “We could use more help from Congress,” he said.
- A reporter asked if, given the planned but frustrated domestic terrorism in Michigan, Vermont police are on the lookout for similar developments. “Generally there are threats made to officials” from unhappy individuals, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said. However, he is unaware of any increase in the number of these complaints.
- Gov. Scott congratulated Burlington Free Press reporter Liz Murray for getting married last week. “Thank you Governor – we had four people at our wedding,” she said, in an apparent effort to ensure that her nuptials were not a “super spreader” event.
Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott announced he had signed the following bills:
- H.99, levies fines of up to $4000 of trade in covered animal parts or products.
- H.578, removes penalties for driving uninsured, prevents suspension of drivers’ license for failure to pay fine for traffic violation.
- H.683, prohibits unintended but foreseeable killing of migratory birds, and establishes the popularity and value to the Vermont economy of bird-watching.
- H.833, creates study group to study surface water diversions between watersheds.
- H.880, requires Abenaki place names (if any) on State park signs.
- H.673, allows selectboard to appoint non-residents as tree wardens
- H.952, charter changes: adds a cent on the tax rate for the Burlington City Housing Trust Fund, city employees prohibited from contracting with City to offer services apart from their employment.
- H.954, miscellaneous tax provisions
- H.962, temporary relief from abuse orders stay in force if defendant fails to appear in court
To view a complete list of action on bills passed during the 2020 legislative session, visit https://governor.vermont.gov/governor-scotts-blog/2020-legislative-session.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.