Clavelle says out-of-state prisoners should be brought back

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Clavelle says the state should cancel its contract to house hundreds of inmates at a privately run prison in Kentucky. Clavelle says allowing a for-profit company to operate a prison is flawed public policy that he strongly opposes.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Host) The Douglas administration contracted with the Corrections Corporation of America to house 400 inmates at its facility in Kentucky at a cost of $8 million a year. The agreement was signed after the state of Virginia didn’t renew its contract to take Vermont prisoners. The Douglas administration determined that the out of state placements were needed to deal with a quickly growing prison population.

Last week, a number of Vermont inmates took part in a riot at the Kentucky prison – an event that Vermont Corrections commissioner Steve Gold blames, in part, on the management of the facility.

Several weeks ago, a special gubernatorial commission released a report that concludes that Vermont’s limited prison space should be reserved for the state’s most dangerous criminals. The report calls for the release of several hundred inmates who’ve been convicted of non-violent crimes and it says these inmates would be better served through an expansion of community based programs and new work camps.

Clavelle says sending inmates to a privately run prison in Kentucky was a big mistake and he’s concerned that the state spends more on its prison budget than it does on higher education:

(Clavelle) “We need to rein in the corrections budget. I also think, in addition to the issues of financing, I think it’s flawed public policy to be privatizing corrections in the state of Vermont. So we ought to bring back the Vermonters that are in jails in Kentucky, bring them home, cancel that contract. There are people in jails in Vermont – non-violent offenders, people that are there because they have a substance abuse problem or can’t find housing on the outside – to deal with those issues, free up some beds that cost $32,000 a year and save some money while we’re at it.”

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says he also supports the basic goals of the commission but he says it will take time to implement these changes:

(Douglas) “I don’t know what choice there is. My goal, my policy is to at some point have all of the inmates in our population housed in Vermont and supervised in the Green Mountain State. But in the short term, I believe we have to take whatever steps are necessary to fund a location that’s satisfactory for the inmates and for the public and for now that is a facility in Kentucky.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he remains convinced that sending the 400 inmates to the Kentucky facility was the best option available to the state.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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