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Pointing the finger--in the wrong direction

Most people know by now that the U.S. contains 25% of the world’s inmates although only 5% of the world’s population.  And most Vermonters know we have the same over-incarceration problem as the rest of the country.  We have sentenced to prison more people than we have room to house, and therefore we send our overflow (500 or so men) out of state, where a privately owned, for-profit prison corporation houses—some would say “warehouses”—them for us.

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U.S. Prison Population Grew in 2013 – and so did Vermont's

by David N. Adair, Jr. VCJR Board of Directors

The Justice Department has reported that the overall prison population in the United States rose slightly in 2013, reversing a trend of decline that began in 2009.  

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Rethinking Sex Offender Laws

by David N. Adair, Jr. VCJR Board of Directors

The Federal “Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Act of 1994” created incentives for states to create sex offender registries and every state has now done so.  And states have designated which offenses will trigger an offender’s duty to register.  The logic behind such laws was the belief (mistaken, it turns out) that sexual offenders were not amenable to rehabilitation, that they were more likely to recidivate than other offenders, and that they were likely to prey upon strangers.  Accordingly, it was believed, a central registry of such offenders could help protect the public from the likelihood of reoffense. 

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State Incarceration Rates in the Global Context

by David N. Adair, Jr. VCJR Board of Directors

Did you know that 36 states and the District of Columbia incarcerate their citizens at rates higher than Cuba?  And that Vermont, which has the lowest incarceration rate in the United States, ranks between Guyana and Colombia?

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Relief for those serving harsh drug sentences

By David N. Adair, Jr.

It was widely reported last week that on July 18 the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to permit Federal judges to reduce the sentences of up to 46,290 Federal drug offenders.  In April the Commission had reduced the base guideline levels for most Federal drug offenses but did not permit judges to reduce sentences previously imposed. 

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Beware the "War on Heroin"

“Vermont’s war on heroin progresses slowly” (April 10). “Vermont’s war on heroin fills court docket” (July 14).  These recent headlines from the Burlington Free Press should give us all pause. They are designed to pique interest and sell papers; okay, that’s the paper’s job. But they also are designed, consciously or not, to generate fear. You wage war against a fearsome enemy. After all, war is typically a last resort to a problem. It’s extreme, it’s dramatic, and if you’re a politician, using this rhetoric can earn you publicity and votes.

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Now What?

With the legislative session over, we turn our attention to next steps. So many needs, addressed by so much good work, and yet... So what's next?

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Another Proposal to Profit from Prisoners Defeated – For Now

by David N. Adair, Jr. VCJR Board of Directors

A Dallas County (Texas) legislative body last week refused to approve a proposed contract that would have provided video conferencing for inmates and their families. Of course, providing more opportunities for families to communicate with prisoners is helpful in maintaining family ties and assists prisoners to reintegrate into their communities upon release.

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Will “data-based” sentencing result in more profiling?

by David N. Adair, Jr. VCJR Board of Directors

With the recent passage of S.295 (now Act 195), Vermont has enthusiastically embraced use of data-driven analytical tools to assess the risks and needs of offenders in the hopes of providing a more effective and appropriate response to crime. 

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Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime?

by David N. Adair, Jr. VCJR Board of Directors

The Sentencing Project has released a new publication that highlights the experience of three states, all of which have reduced their prison populations while experiencing reductions in crime. 

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The Failed Drug War Continues

by David N. Adair, Jr,  VCJR Board of Directors

Nearly every day, it seems, there are reports that this nation’s sentencing laws and practices are destructive and irrational.  But lately there have been signs that the drug warriors are not giving up without a fight.

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The Incarcerated Women’s Initiative—Then and Now

The number of women in jail has grown in Vermont as it has elsewhere—1,000% over twenty years, from 15 in 1985 to 167 in 2006.  In 2005, concerned about the trend, then-Secretary of the Agency of Human Services Mike Smith charged the agency to address this.Thus the Incarcerated Women’s Initiative was born.

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Collateral consequences of criminal conviction act to take effect Jan. 1, 2016

H 413 gives people with a criminal record two ways to apply to the court for relief from some of the restrictions that accompany a conviction.

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Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform
PO Box 8753, Burlington, VT 05402
(802) 540-0440

Contact us:
tom@vcjr.org

Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform 
is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

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