We think of Vermont as a sort of southern Canada, a land of gorgeous, natural vistas, crisp mountain air, and generous socialist values where nothing ever goes wrong. But it turns out the Green Mountain State, for all its innocent charms, has been involved in some dirty business of late, spending over $14 million last year to ship 470 Vermonters off to barely monitored, for-profit prisons like the Lee Adjustment Center. And yes, that's as bad as it sounds.
The Lee Adjustment Center is owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), in rural eastern Kentucky, and like many of the corporation's other human ranches, it has a reputation for maintaining low staffing ratios and for underpaying and under-training its workforce. Mistakes like that are apt to breed high rates of prison violence. Just this week, according to a WCAX report, a Lee inmate had his throat slashed. And the insanity doesn't stop there.
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The crisis has birthed a grassroots movement to bring Vermont prisoners home called "Restore Our Communities." The campaign is pushing Governor Shumlin to take action, and the sooner it succeeds the better. Vermont journalist Jonathan Levitt reports for Counter Punch that Vermont prisoners who want to rehabilitate---ostensibly the whole point of prison--- will find that hard for as long as they're under CCA care.
In a 2008 memo detailing the cost of Vermont’s for-profit prisons use, newly sworn in Vermont Auditor Doug Hoffer wrote,
“Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) does not provide mental health services. […] CCA does not provide services related to sexual abuse, substance abuse, or violent offenders.” According to the memo there’s a laundry list of programing provided here in Vermont facilities which are conspicuously absent from the for-profit prisons. “DOC programs not available through CCA include the Cognitive Self Change program for violent offenders; the Intensive Domestic Abuse Program; Batterers Intervention Program; the Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Programs; and the Discover Program for those with substance abuse problems.”Why do states continue to use private prisons and why is Vermont, of all places, involved?