Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Corrections Report

Rep. Lorber Issues Report on Corrections in Vermont

53 Interviewees’ Voices Heard on Problems, Causes, and Recommendations

Rep. Jason P. Lorber (D-Burlington) today released a broad-based report that gives voice to those dealing with Corrections on a day-to-day basis. The 42-page report provides a vivid picture of a far-ranging set of problems in Corrections, from an insider’s perspective.

“I wanted to hear from the experts,” said Lorber. “So I listened.”

Lorber interviewed 53 stakeholders from Aug. through Dec. 2005, including four probation officers, 16 correctional officers, 12 inmates, the Commissioner of Vermont’s Department of Corrections (DOC), two former DOC commissioners, Vermont’s Attorney General and members of his staff, leaders from two domestic violence agencies, DOC’s director of women’s services, DOC’s head of victim services, the head of a nonprofit agency focusing on foster children, the Vermont State Drug Court Coordinator, and several mental health advocates.

The full report can be viewed at http://www.friendsofjason.org/, along with a 2-page summary.

The report entitled, “53 Voices on Corrections in Vermont,” extensively quotes the interviewees, but without direct attribution in order to encourage a candid and frank discussion of the issues. Lorber asked them their thoughts about Corrections’ problems, their causes, and recommendations for improvement, both short-term, and over a ten-year horizon. Lorber hopes that the report will spark more discussion about some of the state’s most vexing challenges.

Lorber presents dozens of recommendations for change suggested by the interviewees, such as:

  • “[Create] more alternatives to jail, like programs in the community.” [page 8]
  • “Make a commitment to [providing] services to victims.” [page 23]
  • “Secure enough transitional housing for inmates who are ready to return to society.” [page 28]
  • “Raise the age of foster care in Vermont to 23.” [page 31]
  • “Invest in more community-based programs to treat victims of trauma and abuse, and drug addicts.” [page 39]
  • “Ensure that…mentally disabled inmates [are protected].” [page 37]

Lorber is a freshman legislator representing Burlington’s downtown and the Old North End. He has visited four of Vermont’s nine correctional facilities, attended two statewide corrections meetings, and spent dozens of hours reviewing literature on the state of corrections nationally. This is in addition to the testimony Lorber heard while serving on the House Institutions & Corrections Committee.

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At February 06, 2006 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason - I have had a recent run-in with "juvvy" justice and was horrified with the entire system. Since nobody is born full grown, shouldn't we be looking at the inadequacies in the Juvinile Justice and Mental Health system? After all, these kids grow up to be the offenders we have to deal with later.

At February 06, 2006 3:13 PM, Blogger Jason P. Lorber said...

Absolutely. They're interlinked. The more that we look at Corrections with all of the dots connected (including Mental Health and Juvenile Justice), the more likely we'll be able to address the underlying problems.

Please tell me more about your recent run-in and what changes, if any, you'd recommend.

At February 07, 2006 12:36 AM, Blogger Tiki said...

Jason - check out this link. It's a bit done by Frontline (the PBS show that beats all others).

The New Asylums

Fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number -- nearly 500,000 -- mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons. As sheriffs and prison wardens become the unexpected and often ill-equipped caretakers of this burgeoning population, they raise a troubling new concern: Have America's jails and prisons become its new asylums?


At August 13, 2008 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is there an increasing number of mentally challenged people hanging around Church Street? I feel like it is becoming a very unsafe area to spend time at. Between the sexual preditors that are allowed to run rampant and the mentally ill that really have no place to go and nothing to do, Church Street is becoming an area I wouldn't want my daughters hanging around at.

At August 24, 2008 11:13 AM, Anonymous Ron Redmond said...

Jason: Having read the post from anonymous, I wanted to update you on our Street Outreach program in our downtown, a program that has been heralded by our merchants, restaurateurs and downtown employees for its effectiveness.

In 2000, downtown stakeholders created the Burlington Street Outreach program that delivers street-based support to individuals with psychiatric disabilities, substance abuse problems, homelessness issues and unmet social service needs. The team utilizes the Personal Responsibility Model in addressing behaviors, and is available to any business in the Downtown District for consultation and acts as a liaison with other social service providers, and the Burlington Police Department.

A diverse group of stakeholders created the program in 2000, including the Burlington Police Department, Howard Center, Fletcher Allen Health Care, City of Burlington, United Way of Chittenden County, the Burlington Business Association and the Church Street Marketplace – who have committed to 50% of the program’s annual cost. The remaining 50% is covered by the State of Vermont

Recognized nationally for its positive outcomes, our Community Outreach Program leverages its resources effectively and provides some clear benefits to the community by reducing demands on the State Hospital in Waterbury and on our state’s correction system; demonstrating that a public/private partnership model can be replicated in other Vermont towns and cities; serving a population who do not receive services (or often will not accept services) from any primary service provider; supporting the economic vitality of downtown Burlington, which benefits everyone in Vermont through significant income, sales, rooms, meals & alcohol taxes.

The Burlington Street Outreach Team is managed by the Howard Center and supervised by Matt Young. Our merchants, restaurateurs, employees, shoppers and diners have all commented about what a difference the team has made in our downtown over the past eight years. Church Street is a public street...so we balance that reality with the community's need to have those on Church Street taking personal responsibility for their actions. By the way, if you look at BPD's crime statistics over the past 10 years, they've been gradually trending downward.

We are also actively involved with community policing, and work closely with Burlington Police and the team assigned to our downtown.

Best, Ron Redmond, Church Street Marketplace

At August 29, 2008 7:38 PM, Anonymous Vermont Alcohol Addiction Treatment said...

Absolutely. They're interlinked. The more that we look at Corrections with all of the dots connected (including Mental Health and Juvenile Justice), the more likely we'll be able to address the underlying problems.

Please tell me more about your recent run-in and what changes, if any, you'd recommend.

Vermont Alcohol Addiction Treatment


At September 05, 2008 2:50 PM, Anonymous Larry Lewack, Exec. Director, NAMI-Vermont said...

The comment by 'Anonymous' about mentally challenged people 'hanging around' on Church St. conflates two completely separate groups: people with mental disabilities and sexual predators, who are not at all the same. One can debate whether we are doing enough as a society to punish (or treat) sexual predators. But that has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with why so many individuals who live with developmental and psychiatric disabilities choose to congregate in our downtown shopping district.

Ron Redmond's explanation of the Street Outreach worker program & its success is right on point. We applaud that program; it's kept a lot of people with unmet social needs out of jail, at considerable savings to VT taxpayers.

But the larger issues are that:

1) ALL members of our community have the right to congregate where they please in public places, as long as they are respectful of others & obey the law. Thankfully, Church St. is not restricted to those of any age, race or class.

2) People with mental disabilities have seen essential services erode, leaving many in need of help. When people don't get the help they need, they spend more time out on the streets--hence the national homeless problem. This issue is certainly not unique to Burlington; there are homeless folks (some with disabilities, some not) in every area of VT & throughout this great nation.

They are more numerous & more visible in our downtowns, but that alone does not make downtown unsafe. In case 'Anonymous' hadn't noticed, there are also lots of other folks downtown, including many uniformed police officers on foot 24/7. I happen to find the diversity in our downtown areas interesting, NOT threatening.

3) As a homeowner & taxpayer living in Burlington for 25 years, I'm always a little amused when I hear folks from the 'burbs saying they don't feel safe on Church St. The crime stats prove that actual crime rates are down (see today's Free Press) & that our beautiful downtown shopping district has fewer incidents of random violent crime during the day & evening than many smaller towns & rural areas in our generally peaceful state.

Bottom line: I think if 'Anonymous' doesn't feel s/he or his/her daughters are safe on Church St., s/he should look in a different place than blaming random people with disabilities for his/her ungrounded fears. Perhaps 'Anonymous' should take a good hard look in the mirror, for example.


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