MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont inmates housed in a Pennsylvania state prison due to overcrowding will be moved to a private prison in Mississippi, following complaints about treatment, medical care and several inmate deaths.
The Vermont Department of Corrections announced the two-year contract on Wednesday. The 228 inmates will be moved in October to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Mississippi, run by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, which will have 350 beds available to the state.
“If we can’t have all the inmates in Vermont which is our preferred place to have them, then we’re looking for a system that can provide conditions of confinement that are more similar to what you would have in Vermont,” said Corrections Commission Lisa Menard.
Vermont will pay $71 per day per inmate in the first year and $72.99 the second year. In Pennsylvania the cost was $72 a day with a minimum of 250 inmates, Menard said. The average daily rate in Vermont facilities in fiscal year 2017 was $183, she said.
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The Camp Hill prison in Pennsylvania, where the inmates have been since June of 2017, was part of the state prison system. The facility didn’t use Vermont’s disciplinary system, which states by statute that the maximum amount of time somebody can be in disciplinary segregation is 30 days, Menard said. “It’s longer than that in Pennsylvania,” she said. The Mississippi prison will use Vermont’s systems.
Inmates also will have access to lawyer phones with which they can contact their lawyers or the attorneys can contact them, a service they didn’t have in Pennsylvania, but had in other facilities. The Mississippi prison also has agreed to provide medical and mental health care without a co-pay for service, a fee that was a concern in Pennsylvania, Menard said.
Despite those changes, the ACLU of Vermont and other prisoners’ rights advocates who have long opposed housing inmates out-of-state say the move will put even more distance between inmates and their families and support systems.
“What happened to Vermonters at the Camp Hill prison in Pennsylvania was horrific and a stain on our history as a state. Mississippi is more of the same,” said Tom Dalton, executive director of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform. “It’s time for Vermont to stop moving human beings across the country from one warehouse to another and come up with a plan to bring them home where we can monitor and rehabilitate them properly.”