(Host) The state Corrections Department wants to move about 100 female inmates to the Windsor prison. The plan is designed to relieve overcrowding at other facilities. Officials hope to make the move when the new, 350-bed Springfield jail opens this fall.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) The number of women in Vermont prisons has climbed 300% in the last five years. Officials attribute the skyrocketing population to Vermont’s growing drug problem. The situation has put a strain on Vermont’s already overcrowded prison system.
Corrections Commissioner Steve Gold says the Chittenden regional correctional facility – which was never designed for women – now holds roughly 90 female prisoners.
(Gold) “The facility wasn’t structured or built to segregate the two populations. So it’s incredibly stressful to have that situation going on, both for the men inmates, for the women inmates and the staff who are trying to run that institution.”
(Dillon) The state did open one all-women prison in Waterbury in 1998. Built for 45 women, it was full immediately and now houses 55 women. Gold says the plan is to relieve the overcrowding in Chittenden and Waterbury by transferring women to Windsor. He said the move will be possible when the new Springfield jail opens up this fall.
(Gold) “With the advent of 350 new beds, we have the opportunity to move people around and to try to become more clear and focused in the way we’re using the different institutions.”
(Dillon) According to Gold, women are increasingly doing time for drug related crimes.
(Gold) “A large number of women are either being incarcerated directly as a result of their involvement with heroin or other drugs, or because of crimes they are committing – by and large property crimes – that are connected to their drug involvement.”
(Dillon) Moving the female prisoners to Windsor will mean some are farther away from their families, including young children. Gold says the Corrections Department will provide weekly bus service so the prisoners can stay in touch with their families.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.