Vermont Interfaith Action pushes for change in corrections system

Vermont News

VERMONT (WFFF) — People from the group Vermont Interfaith Action got together to advocate for change in the state’s corrections system. They were joined by Interim Commissioner Jim Baker and the Joint Legislative Judicial Oversight Committee. 

They hope to improve conditions for women incarcerated in Vermont. Vermont Interfaith Action Leader Fran Carlson said a lot more needs to be done. “We really want the focus, especially in the women’s prison, to be more on wellness, and working with their difficult problems,” Carlson said.

She’s talking about the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF) in South Burlington. For one, the faith leaders want corrections officers to be mentored. “In gender equality, and themselves their wellness to be taken into consideration,” Carlson said. 

One former inmate, Tiffany, was released from CRCF 18 months ago. She told the group that the facility’s corrections officers were not friendly. “They look down on us for having addiction issues, a lot of us, or mental health issues—which most of us have both,” she said.

Tiffany says she barely had access to mental health treatment. “To get into a group—one of the substance abuse groups, Phoenix House—I had to wait like nine months,” Tiffany said. 

Vermont Interfaith Action is looking to the state of Maine for examples of a different approach. “They have a trauma-informed, service-driven approach,” Carlson said. “They go into a re-entry situation pretty much right when they go to prison.”

They also want correctional institutions to focus on educational opportunities. “Both technical and academic, and that oftentimes gets back to the facility,” Carlson said. “There are some opportunities off campus, but we think there should be even more.”

This is so people can be prepared to leave prison and have skills that they can use in the community. “It’s all to keep them out there in the community to not have them come back,” Carlson said. 

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