Douglas administration prepares prison overcrowding proposal
MONTPELIER — Gov. James Douglas and his administration are preparing to release a detailed proposal to ease the overcrowding that has been plaguing the corrections system.
It will include a recommendation to build a work camp and to use sophisticated technology to monitor inmates outside of the traditional prison setting.
In August, a special blue-ribbon commission outlined two different ways the state could deal with a correctional system that's bursting at the seams.
The panel said the state could build three new major jails over the next five years at a cost of $100 million. Or, it said, a number of programs could be established to reduce the number of people in prisons.
The commission concluded that it would be mistake for the state to try to build its way out of the problem.
There are roughly 1,600 people incarcerated in Vermont jails and another 400 housed out of state.
The commission recommended the construction of three additional work camps as a way to provide new space for roughly 300 inmates. Douglas is enthusiastic about that idea.
"I think the work camp model is an extremely good one," he said. "I've had a long commentary from the town manager in St. Johnsbury where the current work camp is located. ... So I think the work camp model, based on its success and its cost, is something that we ought to pursue."
A second proposal would expand the use of GPS, or global positioning satellite, technology to the corrections system. For approximately $3,000 a year, nonviolent inmates could be outfitted with special ankle bracelets that track their movements.
The plan would be to transfer 400 inmates who are currently in prison to this community-based system. This move alone would create enough space to allow the state to bring back the 400 inmates who are being held out of state.
"So we're going to continue to have pressure and to the extent that we can monitor people in a way with GPS bracelet technology, I think that makes a great deal of sense, too," Douglas said.
The commission also proposed that lawmakers consider changes to the state's sentencing guidelines law to give judges more discretion to consider options to incarcerating criminals.
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