Oppose legislative efforts to limit scope of justice reinvestment

PUTNEY — In 2020, Gov. Phil Scott signed Act 148, an act relating to justice reinvestment. The law intends to reduce Vermont's prison population, reduce recidivism and reduce the state's reliance on out-of-state, private, for-profit, prisons. The act was a result of work by the Justice Reinvestment II Working Group and enacted many of the committee's recommendations.

Among the many reforms in this act is the reinstatement of earned good time - giving inmates the ability to earn a small reduction in their sentenced time by maintaining a high standard of conduct while incarcerated and on parole.

Now there is an effort in both chambers of the Vermont Legislature (S.18 and H.111) to take this option away from inmates convicted of certain classes of offenses.

I want to argue against these bills.

• If we cannot reward people for good behavior, then we have a prison system, not a corrections system.

• People can change when they have a reason to change. Life in a corrections institution is incredibly difficult. Earned good time gives people a reason to change how they deal with difficulty, a skill that will help them stay out of trouble after release.

• Currently, almost 80 percent of admissions to corrections facilities are people returning because of parole, probation, and furlough violations - i.e., they have not successfully managed their behavior after release. What does that tell us about our “corrections” system?

• Corrections management needs “carrots,” like good time.

• The burden of managing a good-time system that would apply to some but not all will fall on an already underresourced Department of Corrections.

• Good time is not automatically applied. It just means a person can be considered for parole sooner.

• It's humane. People need hope, and they need recognition for doing the right thing.

Please contact your representative and speak out against S.19 and H.111. Ask that Act 148 continue unchanged.

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