Springfield prison expansion unlikely in near future

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(Host) Administration Secretary Michael Smith says it’s unlikely the Douglas Administration will seek money to expand the new prison in Springfield during the next fiscal year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The state is slowly transferring inmates to the new prison in Springfield. When the transition is complete roughly 325 prisoners will be housed at the facility. Even when the prison is full at the end of the year, Vermont will still need to keep several hundred inmates in prisons in Virginia.

The new prison in Springfield is designed to allow a relatively simple expansion in the future, an expansion that eventually could add at least 150 inmates to the facility. During the initial construction, expanded capacity for water, sewage and utility services were built into the project. Administration Secretary Michael Smith says expanding Springfield might be a good option in the future, but this is not the time:

(Smith) “I would tend to say that’s probably not going to happen in the ’05 Capital Bill, primarily because we want to get the facility up and running and running at least a year or possibly a little more time before we have a chance to expand that facility right off. So I think although I know it’s something that we’re [considering], it’s not something that’s going to be in the ’05 Capital Bill.”

(Kinzel) The state is reviewing its contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections because Virginia wants to increase the cost of taking additional inmates. Vermont is looking at the possibility of sending these inmates to a prison operated by a private for-profit corrections company.

Smith says the state will require that certain services and programs are made available in any out of state prison. He says a draft contract, proposed by a private company, is now being reviewed by the administration:

(Smith) “What I’m at liberty to say now is we’re examining all alternatives as we look forward. There are pluses and minuses with any alternative that we put forth. We’ll go with the best proposal that is beneficial to the state of Vermont and beneficial to those inmates that are being shipped to those facilities.”

(Kinzel) Smith expects a final decision will be reached concerning the placement of Vermont inmates in out of state facilities in the next few weeks.

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

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