Shumlin Unveils Plan To Reduce Rate Of Repeat Offenders

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin has unveiled the first part of his plan to lower the repeat offender rate for people serving time in Vermont jails.

Shumlin wants to relocate all women inmates to the Chittenden Correctional facility and provide them with a variety of family support services.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The plan is a major priority that Shumlin raised during his gubernatorial campaign.

According to recent studies, roughly 72% of all non violent offenders will commit another crime within 3 years of their release and end up back in jail.

 Shumlin says the state can save a lot of money, reduce crime rates and improve the lives of offenders if additional money is allocated to support community based programs for this population.

(Shumlin) "69% of our women and 45% of our men in the Vermont corrections system are non violent offenders. That means they tend to have drug and alcohol related addictions, they have difficulty reading and they’re in for non violent offenses – bouncing checks, stealing money to support their habits. I want to treat the symptoms so that they don’t end up back in prison within 3 years."

(Kinzel) Shumlin says the first project involves moving female inmates from the St. Albans prison to the Chittenden Correctional facility and investing a small amount of money to renovate the Chittenden jail.

(Shumlin) "We’re going to take half of the gym space at the Chittenden facility and convert it to a parent child visiting center to allow female inmates to have contact with their children, improve their parenting skills and give them a better chance of success as well as being better parents once their time is up."

(Kinzel) Shumlin wants to expand this effort to include as many non violent offenders as possible in other jails around the state.

(Shumlin) "As governor I intend to be both tough on crime and smart on crime. I think what Vermont has been missing is the smart part. If we had half of our non violent offenders at $45,000 a year back in the system in 3 years, we are not being smart. So let’s invest the dollars up front, ensure that we’re better about bending that curve and get a better bang for our buck for taxpayers as well as giving these people hope and a productive life."

(Kinzel) The goal of this initiative is to save $7 million in jail costs in the next 12 months and to reinvest $3 million of these savings in community based support programs.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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