Tyler Colford: Innovation needed to reduce prison population

Editor’s note: This letter is by Tyler Colford, of Jacksonville. He was a Republican candidate for state Senate, Windham district, in 2018.

Last I checked Vermont had more than 2,000 inmates in the system, with 276 inmates being housed in Mississippi and 66 inmates in Vermont who do not have access to a bed. There have also been stories of poor healthcare in these facilities. Likewise, there are approximately 1,200 homeless individuals on any given day in Vermont.

Instead of continuing to use taxpayer money to provide inadequate housing to inmates in a public prison or ship them out of state, away from their families, the state could offer businesses a tax cut or zero taxes for their operations within the state. In return, these businesses could provide work and housing for the inmates. In order for the businesses to provide adequate services for the inmates, allow the inmates to choose where they want to be housed.

Each business would, likely, need certain skills that would be different from the other businesses (with some overlap). There could even be an intermediary housing business that other local businesses fund in return for training certain skills and finding inmates that could transition well into a certain type of work environment.

Because the businesses would also be competing with one another for the inmates, they would make sure that their workers are healthy and happy.

If no one wanted to be housed by any of the businesses than they would have to shut down, even if they did not pay any taxes for their operations. However, the state should not compensate or subsidize the businesses. There needs to be a severance between the public and private sectors within the justice system. Also, only the victims should be compensated for the transgressions, which could easily happen through the contract with the business, having it automatically deducted from their pay.

By allowing the inmates to work, and for an agreed amount between both the business and inmate, it will not be peanuts. The housing will be included in their pay, but it will be outlined in the contract, so the inmate will know exactly what s/he is getting in return for their labor.

The possibilities are really endless. From tech. start ups and machinery, to copy or ghost writing. Just because an individual has acted deplorably and may need to be separated from society doesn’t mean that they should not be allowed to contribute to society.

The government looked the other way with operation paperclip; an operation where the federal government brought Nazi scientists to the states, changing their identities and giving them high positions within the Alphabet agencies like NASA and the CIA. You can argue that those scientists committed crimes against humanity and that our government should not have carried out the operation but the fact is that they did. Much of the public looks the other way, enjoying Michael Jackson’s music, even while they know about his pedophilic history.

If a person is able to help progress humanity, whether in the sciences, the arts or otherwise, we should allow them to do so regardless of their record.

These facilities will, likely, be smaller but will help reduce the hindrance of Vermont’s current prison population problems as well as our burdensome cost of housing the inmates, which is one of the highest, per inmate, in the country. Another way to decrease the burdensome prison population is to give clemency to all non violent drug offenders, to get rid of mandatory minimums and to strike all victimless crimes from the books.

If these businesses wanted to, they could also employ and house others, which could possibly help with the homeless population. Of course, not everyone will want to contribute, but any amount would help reduce the number of homeless individuals and give beds to inmates while cutting down on the cost for taxpayers, helping everyone in Vermont.

No system will be perfect, but allowing the market to figure out these options helps push innovation instead of having the government hamstring it.

Image courtesy of Josh Estey/AusAID/Wikimedia Commons
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12 thoughts on “Tyler Colford: Innovation needed to reduce prison population

  1. Back in the 70’s, Vermont Corrections ran a work camp saw mill up in the Barton/Sutton area (it was a long time ago, I was in my early teens). I don’t know much about it, but I do know they destroyed most every piece of equipment (trucks, tractors, etc) they had. I was at the auction when they closed up. A poorly managed program at best.

    I’ve worked for the VDOC for a bit, and I don’t think many of these (work) programs succeed. Most of Vt inmates are “institutionalized” and lack the desire to change for the better. Incarceration is far to easy for the habitual offender. I life of crime (however petty) and handouts is the life they CHOOSE.

    I can think of two possible methods to reduce the recidivism in Vermont (the 2nd highest per capita in the nation): Establish a Prison Boot Camp for young, first-time offenders. The first-time offender should really read “first-time caught”. Still, a program like this may be effective for a least a percentage of inmates before they become institutionalized and un-recoverable. Many of this inmate demographic lacked the discipline growing up, both at home and within (themselves), that this solution may now provide.

    Lastly change the DOC parole and probation methodology of keeping convicts within the area in which they have committed their crimes. This is foolish. Many criminals associate with other criminals or “bad influences” as friends. By restricting a convict to live and (hopefully) work the same area, the chances of breaking the cycle of crime diminished greatly. You can’t turn over a new leaf if you are repeating the same bad decisions.

  2. Great to see a Republican running in VT better yet Windham Cty – aren’t you brave. Best of luck – and grappling with issues that the majority rule and status quo Dem/Progs have failed to address – much too busy virtue signaling and passing dumb stuff like plastic bag bans, cigarette and soda taxes while busily ruining our state. Incidentally bag-ban like all of aforementioned will impact low income VTers as many are recycling said bags and will now be purchasing more heavyweight bags to pour into our landfills – brilliant!Our leaders are fast-ailing us on the state as well as national level but its always the Rs that get the bad press…

    Windham Cty Sheriff head Keith Clark had some great prisoner release ideas but was slammed – a visionary imho.

    Prison reform needs to be addressed w commonsense solutions sduch as yours…thanks for putting yourself out there despite the thanklessness of bringing bold fresh ideas to the fore.

    Many VTers have ppl we know and love seemingly trapped in a criminal justice system that is unwilling and unable to provide an atmosphere where there are options which help rehab…they’re pretty much left to learn how to become better crims…while left to the tender mercies of the evergrowing gang members in the general population.

    We need more business partnerships as the biggest problem is our state systems which serve us so poorly are headed up, run and staffed by career bureacrats and state employees who couldn’t care less…look at our broken mental health system…its a VT disease and also a disgrace.

    • Thank you for your encouragement! The Democrats seem well versed at playing with people emotions and shaming people, like with the bag ban. I am one of those who reused the plastic bags, yet I must be an evil person because I’m against the ban. I’d never think of shaming anyone for political purposes however republicans, in my opinion, should figure out how to channel the emotions of the public if they want to be elected. I hope this article has done that for some.

  3. Criminals already have air conditioning, heating, 3 meals a day, cable tv, internet access, gym equipment, access to higher education, etc. All things I grew up without; all things my (non-criminal) working parents couldn’t afford. I think the “bad guys” get enough! Oh and what exactly is a “victimless crime?”

    • You might not have read my entire letter. First off, currently, you are paying for some of their amenities. With my plan taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for these things. But you say they have air conditioning, cable tv and internet access yet there are at least 60 inmates who don’t even have a bed to sleep on. I just want to stress again, taxpayers are paying for the prisons operations however with my plan there is no taxpayer funding.

      • Tyler, no taxes are great but I don’t believe criminials deserve the luxuries you are hoping to provide; at least not until they’ve served their jail time which I believe should be the ‘food, shelter, clothing’ bare minumum. Cut my taxes by taking away the inmate vacation packages.

    • Cable tv, internet access, gym equipment, access to higher education? Not so sure this is true if it is it’s not everywhere. I’d like to see this fact checked.

      • Hi stardust, to be fair, I can only speak on jails and prison in Florida. I very recently moved to Vermont and don’t know of anyone’s experiences here. However, in Florida (admittedly an entirely backwards state!), I’ve known two people who spent time in prison and countless others who have served time in numerous different county jails (adult and juvenile). Every single one of them raved about the amentities. It’s like Club Med!

  4. Stop the whine for criminals. The only Innovation needed is for them to figure out if you don’t like the time, don’t do the crime. Personally I think chain gangs and sleeping in tents might help them get it faster.

    • When man made laws are so convoluted that the average person commits 3 felonies each day, I wouldn’t be so quick posture against those within correctional facilities. You might be looking out one of them tomorrow.

      • “3 felonies each day”. Nonsense. If you want to reform criminals put them on chain gangs.

    • I agree with you edward. Prison-life is probably easier than where they grew up. Stop making jail seem like a vacation. Maybe if there were real consequences and actual punishments, people would be afraid to commit crimes. So many criminals don’t even care if they get caught because it’s just a slap on the wrist anyway.

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