Inmates may be transferred to private prison company

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(Host) State Corrections Commissioner Steve Gold says there’s a good chance that Vermont will sign a contract with an out of state private prison company to house several hundred inmates. Currently these inmates are incarcerated in Virginia, but Gold says the state is looking at other options because Virginia officials are seeking more money for this arrangement.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Corrections Department is exploring various options because even when the new Springfield is filled to capacity, the state will still need to find out of state space for at least 300 additional inmates.

When Virginia announced it was going to increase its rate for housing Vermont inmates, the Corrections Department solicited bids from other states. It also sought bids from several private companies that operate prison systems on a for profit basis for a number of states.

Corrections Commissioner Steve Gold says the state is working on a draft contract with one of the private firms although he declined to name the company or where it’s located. Gold says he doesn’t have a problem working with a private company because he says the contract will clearly outline the kinds of services and programs that the state expects for its inmates. Gold says his department will closely monitor the situation if the contract is finalized:

(Gold) “There’s no question that we would take the monitoring responsibility very seriously, especially in view of the fact that it was a private provider. And we would be very involved in an ongoing formal monitoring process out of this office toward a contractor.”

(Kinzel) Moving the inmates to a facility run by a private company will most likely meet with legislative approval. Senate Institutions Chair Vince Illuzzi notes that several years ago the General Assembly gave the Corrections Department the authority to consider a private provider. Illuzzi says this step was taken because it’s clear that Vermont cannot afford to build another prison after the new Springfield facility opens:

(Illuzzi) “We’re dedicating a facility which has cost $26 million to $30 million to build, and which will cost a small fortune to operate since we have to provide a full compliment of services as well as security on a 24 hours 7 day a week basis. It’s a lot easier to deal with overflow capacity by contracting it out to another state or to a private for profit entity.”

(Kinzel) The Corrections Department hopes to make final decision about the out of state placements in the next month. If a contract is signed, the inmates currently being held in Virginia could be moved to their new location by Thanksgiving.

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

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