On Monday, Vtdigger reported that this week the number of Vermonters incarcerated out-of-state will drop to the lowest number in a decade, with Vermont officials slowly bringing prisoners home from a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison in Kentucky.
This is welcome and hopeful news for Grassroots Leadership and our allies, Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, who have been working hard on the Locked Up and #ShippedAway Campaign — calling on state leaders to reduce the prison population in order to end the use of private prisons and bring Vermonters home.
Bringing prisoners back home to Vermont, closer to their families and loved ones, is a step in the right direction. But, it also opens the door to potential penalties from CCA. Laura Krantz reported:
“...the state’s contract with private prison corporation Corrections Corp. of America includes the stipulation that CCA can impose penalties on the state if the number of prisoners from Vermont drops below 380, Pallito said. Those penalties include moving the prisoners to another facility or moving other prisoners in with the Vermont inmates, he said.”
With the number of Vermonters in the Kentucky prison dropping to 360, CCA has the power to punish Vermont for bringing prisoners home, closer to their communities and support networks. And, unfortunately, this is not unique to Vermont. A report published by In the Public Interest in September 2013, Criminal: How Lock Up Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations, exposes the different ways private prison companies like CCA use this tactic to incentivize incarceration and penalize progress.
Fortunately, the threat of penalties isn’t stopping VTDOC Commissioner Andy Pallito from bringing prisoners home. It is a risk he is willing to take, especially considering that the contract with CCA expires this June, and CCA is competing with the GEO Group, another private prison giant, for the new out-of-state contract. At the end of the day, contracting with a private, for-profit prison company, especially one that threatens penalties for reducing the number of prisoners filling their beds, is simply the wrong choice. The fact that this type of stipulation exists in Vermont’s contract with CCA should serve as yet another reason for Vermont to prioritize cutting ties with an industry that views prisoners as commodities. We will continue to support the fight in Vermont for the return of all Vermonters from out-of-state private prisons and sustainable solutions that strengthen communities and keep fewer people behind bars.
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