Vermont lawmakers to consider ‘elimination’ of all incarceration

Lawmakers in the House Corrections and Institutions Committee on Thursday discussed two bills that would create a moratorium on new prisons for five years and launch a committee to examine the elimination of incarceration altogether.

Much of the testimony concerned the conditions at women’s incarceration facilities. They heard from former inmates who came to the committee table.

state of Vermont

Rep. Brian Cina, P/D-Burlington

Rep. Brian Cina, P/D Burlington, is the lead sponsor of both bills — one dealing with the delay on new infrastructure, H.445, and the other forming the committee to end incarceration, H.438.

“We want the creation of a committee-based system of care and rehabilitation that reduces recidivism and promotes recovery, and we would do this by having accessible and equitable localized services throughout the state in every community, every town, everywhere,” Cina told committee members.

Prisons for women not working?

Jayna Ahsaf, the Vermont campaign organizer for the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, is also in support of these efforts. First, she suggested that prison sentences aren’t generally benefiting women.

“There’s no evidence that prison-based treatment is effective for women, and there’s no such thing as a safe prison for women at all,” she said.

Ahsaf spoke in support of a moratorium on new prison construction, and she suggested there are currently opportunities for new housing.

“By taking prison construction off the table for five years we’ll finally have the opportunity to create alternative solutions that solve problems preemptively,” she said.

She added that Vermont has already gone the last 16 years without building any new prisons, and so another five years should not be difficult.

Ahsaf also noted that empty dorms are an example of resources that could be transformed into supportive housing for those attempting to reintegrate back into society.

Public domain

NOT FOR ANYONE?: At least more than a dozen lawmakers have signed on to a bill that would consider having Vermont eliminate incarceration as a penalty for crime.

She described “wrap-around” services, which would mean making help and resources available to those trying to reintegrate into normal life, “including assistance finding employment, counseling, and care for those struggling with substance abuse disorder.”

Tiffany Harrington, a concerned citizen who was invited to testify to the committee, spoke about her experiences as a mother while incarcerated.

“Instead of spending all that money on a prison you could actually get these women a house and a car and still have money left over,” she said.

“The point is you could do something to really help these people instead of like taking away their families and their homes and then having them start over completely every time they get out into the community,” she added.

Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility under criticism

The committee heard repeatedly about alleged poor conditions at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, a women’s prison in South Burlington.

Ahsaf noted that less than half have been convicted of the charges against them, the rest are there still awaiting trial. She said too many inmates are in for minor infractions.

“When you consider that some of these women are also incarcerated on technical parole violations, something as trivial as missing an appointment and others can’t make bail, when taking those women into account as well as those that are suffering from mental illness and should be in treatment, it is hard to see who is left,” Ahsaf said.

Ahsaf said there are at least 20 cases at the facility of women who “can be housed in a facility that does not have to look like or cost as much as a prison.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Public domain and state of Vermont

40 thoughts on “Vermont lawmakers to consider ‘elimination’ of all incarceration

  1. The VT Dept. Of Corrections has been more and more biased toward the inmate as opposed to holding people accountable. They can break the rules inside or out, bring drugs in, assault others, and nine times out of ten get zero accountability. Over the past ten years, the incarcerated have more perks than ever, the State provides maintenance drugs to any kind of addict, they have Xbox games, music, movies, popcorn, popsicles, and have to do absolutely nothing to earn any of it. They get less time in segregation because of the mental toll it takes. They have phone accounts, commissary accounts, and go out to dental and medical appointments. Corrections is as corrupt as the politician’s funding it. Some Managers are as corrupt as some they incarcerate. They claim they are founded in truth, integrity, and honesty when they are anything but. Their idea of supervision is do as i say not as i do. They harass, manipulate, coerce to commit purjery, lie and cover up incidents, commit forgery, lie in affidavits, make evidence disappear. Until the “so called”
    System of corruption is given a high test enema, in and out, nothing changes.

  2. Let me get this straight. The Democrats and Progs have voted in abortion up to the moment of birth, euthanasia for the elderly, working on legalization of prostitution, talking about legalization of all recreational drugs, elimination of prisons, keeping parents out of the loop on transgenderism, taking away our current heat sources, taking away gasoline powered everything, constantly trying to reduce or remove guns and unaffordability reigns for them. Did I miss anything? Is this a place where families will want to move to? They have too much time on their hands in the legislature.

  3. I assume this entails the amendment of Vermont’s Constitution to repeal Chapter II, Section 64 which, by the way, has seemingly been ignored for years:

    § 64. Punishment at hard labor

    To deter more effectually from the commission of crimes, by continued visible punishments of long duration, and to make sanguinary punishments less necessary, means ought to be provided for punishing by hard labor, those who shall be convicted of crimes not capital, whereby the criminal shall be employed for the benefit of the public, or for the reparation of injuries done to private persons: and all persons at proper times ought to be permitted to see them at their labor.

  4. Worried that the correction facility is not good enough for those who are there to serve time for committing a crime? That should be a reason not to become a career offender? Amazing you want to get the opinion of former inmates. Stop being concerned with those who don’t follow the rules in life and have more compassion for the victims.

  5. Anyone who wants to make public policy specifically for “women” or based on the experiences of women
    ought to first demonstrate that they can DEFINE what is a woman…

  6. I have to laugh at Vermont pushing all this Green BS with the idea of ‘Saving the World”- along with ideas like this beauty.

    These people are polluting all of New England with their insanity and the fallout of it- making the good people flee this entire part of the country – all as they claim to be saving the planet- in their delusional pea brains.

    The good people in Middle America (that produce our Food!) absolutely hates both coasts and hopes we all get hit by an asteroid and wiped off the face of the earth.
    Many people today are leaving the Northeast because it’s getting downright embarrassing to be up here and seen as someone that took part of in the takeover of these evil criminals in control- many of which are high functioning vegetables.

    If you can’t vote them out or institutionalize them, all that is left is move out of the state.
    Do not fund your own demise by paying taxes to the rogue tyrannical government hellbent on destruction “to save the world”.. as they destroy their own backyard.

    We watch from NH like we are viewing a Reality TV Show over there.

    • Laura Stone couldn’t agree more! Have lived in VT my entire life and at the age of 56 our next move will be out of state. Hopefully within a year 2 tops. I seriously can’t believe leave the people of this state keep re-electing these socialistic pigs in to office.

  7. Liberals Master Plan- let criminals run free, no accountability, then the law abiding citizens will have to use their guns, liberals will then point to increased gun violence and use that to brain wash the school and college students to destroy the 2nd. Amendment. Wow

  8. Bad conditions in prisons? Fix the conditions. Spend the money you won’t need for building new ones by fixing the conditions in the old ones. Fire abusive prison guards. Build all these services WITHIN the prisons. Buy them a house and a car? What? For committing a crime? Let’s just encourage everyone to commit a crime so they can get a free house and car. Are you kidding me?

  9. Commit a felony and get rewarded with a house and a car.

    Where did we get geniuses like Tiffany Harrington?

    • If this rusty starfish gets his way, we can settle any perceived wrong done to us with a 9mm without fear of incarceration. Sweet!

  10. Leave it to a brain dead “P” from Burlington to come up with this stupid idea. How did that whole defund the police thing go bri bri? Seems to me crime started skyrocketing and now your city can’t get it back in control. Taking away any punishment is only going to give the criminal element more incentive to do the crime for which they will get NO TIME. Like the defund worked out for B town this will have the same effect of driving business out of VT.

    • I get It DBean, these dems and progs will do anything to put the general public in unsafe conditions. It really amazes me that if the get themselves in a bad situation who do they call, the police. So you can’t have it both ways, hire more cops, bring the BPD up to capacity and most of all give acting. Heifer Murad the job he has earned. To the Burlington Police , Fire and Rescue, thanks for your service, and may God Bless and take care be safe.

  11. I’d like the names of the dozen of lawmakers that signed on to this stupid bill. They need to be voted out

    • I agree, we should beable to get rid of people that are certainly trying to do us harm. All the criminals they don’t punish or let out of jail, should be herded to montpelier.

  12. There we go again helping the women, what about the men, they have kids and they have families. I did 28 months got out to a half way house had to do six more months there. Then I got full custody of my son all because his mother picked drugs over him. They gave her chance after chance. Lund home, handed her everything to succeed she didn’t want to. So I think if you’re going to do for one you should do for all if you’re going to help the women, then you should help the men there should be no bias in the state but that’s the problem with these liberals.

  13. Complete IDIOTS that what these liberal morons are and how the heck do they stay in office! Criminals belong in jail where they wont commit again you IDIOTS! NO we DONT want This get this MORON out of office! Liberals just want to destroy everything!

  14. Anyone want to buy my house? I’m out of here. You crazy socialist nutcases win. I’m done here.

  15. Who would have thunk it? All under the guise of cutting cost. Chittenden County, under Sarah George, already has a no punishment agenda. We could end up just like NYC, Chicago, San Fran, etc. These fools just continue to try to out do themselves by who can be the most outrageous. But then again, they keep getting reelected. Sarah, if I remember right got 82% of the vote in November. Bernie gets about 92% of the vote. Who the hell votes for these nut cases. Anybody I talk denies voting for them.

  16. Look at what happened in BURLINGTON,VT when the progressive agenda defunded the police, ALL HELL BROKE OUT!! So yes , let’s put convicted people back on the streets, so they go go out and do it all over again. We don’t have enough Howard counselors, or any probation officers to follow these people.
    What empty college forms are you talking about, I see no empty dorms or apts in the state

  17. Incarceration is 100% effective.
    They are removed from society and while there they cannot commit another crime.
    Once you lose your freedom you realize how much it means to you.
    If you continue to commit crimes and become incarcerated repeatedly then your freedom means nothing to you.
    Prison is supposed to be tough, tough enough that you don’t want to go back.

  18. “Progressive” activists aren’t stupid, despite evidence (like this story) to the contrary. They have an agenda, the complete destruction of the liberal capitalist society that the United States has evolved into over the last two centuries. And they have been remarkably successful. My WWII veteran father, an old-school Democrat, passed away 25 years ago. He would not recognize what this nation has degraded into since he passed.

  19. Get ready for an influx of criminals from across the US. If I was a criminal, I might consider moving there except for the cold weather.

  20. Politicians tend to pander to constituent groups in order to attract votes from them and from those sympathetic to their cause. What prompts Mr Cina and his backers to want to “fix” this cause? What’s the upside for him and his backers? Why is this a cause he wants to champion? Is there really a substantial group of voters clamoring for lawbreakers to rejoin the general population before the end of their sentences? People commit crimes against society’s laws and we don’t hold them to account? It is demonstrable that laws and jail aren’t 100% effective anywhere, and just as demonstrable are recidivism rates that put those who are willing to live by the rules at risk if those who wish to break the rules are back on the street the way these advocates are proposing. The general non criminal population deserves better consideration. I’m all for helping the lawbreakers get treatments inside where they can make progress to return to the outside. That’s where the investments should be made at a level that would improve the results, not run a potentially dangerous experiment on the rest of us. So Mr. Cina, how about initiatives that can make that happen?

  21. Unbelievable. No real punishment for any crime, no matter how serious? How “Kumbaya” ! Thus, criminals and bad people can do whatever they wish, with no fear of consequence? WHAT are these Libs thinking? …they are just plain ignorant to any realities…l liked this quote from another great Op-ed over weekend…..”American Leftists Are Fundamentally….Stupid”:

    ““The American Left is fundamentally stupid….But even among the Left in general, American leftists have a thickheadedness all their own. European leftists have often been true intellectuals – people who do the reading, who are open to debate, who believe in ideas. But American lefties are simply punks. They think only in terms of slogans. They can’t reconcile experience and ideas. They can’t read or understand the historical record, or even grasp why it has any connection to the current situation… a lack of understanding of simple cause and effect.”

    • My thoughts exactly!! 100%
      Rewarding bad behavior or completely ignoring it is a recipe for pure disaster.

    • The American Left, the Progressives, are a dogmatic religion. Dogmatists are always right; Whoever disputes their dogma is invariably wrong. Dissidents, and heretics will be persecuted; apostates will be shunned and banished. The Progressive Truth will be defended, will be upheld despite the havoc it wreaks. Religious dogma: How else do they justify the belief that admitting illegal invaders, releasing felons and defunding police will reduce crime and violence? That gun laws will disarm criminals?

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