Vt. Senators Say Boost Treatment to Cut Prison Costs
Its about time this policy was implemented.
Increased community-based addiction treatment could help trim growing prison expenses in Vermont, according to a group of four Democratic members of the Vermont Senate.
The Vermont Press Bureau reported Jan. 17 that the lawmakers unveiled a plan to close down a prison in Waterbury, convert another to a women’s-only facility, and use a third as a program for offenders with alcohol and other drug problems. The broader overhaul of the state’s prison system would emphasize providing treatment to addicted offenders in community settings rather than sending them to state prisons.
“We really need to reserve our prisons’ beds for the violent offenders that we all agree need to be locked up,” said Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The budget of the Vermont Department of Corrections grew 94 percent between 2000 and 2007, and at current rates the prison population is projected to grow 23 percent over the next decade.
The lawmakers’ plan to invest in addiction treatment would cost $2.7 million but save $5 to $6 million annually, they said. Vermont Corrections Commissioner Robert Hofmann said the plan was “very close to one of the proposals” the department itself has recently made.
“I think there is a strong consensus among lawmakers and other stakeholders that these recommendations are reasonable,” Hofmann said. “Some have more cost savings than others, but all the options on the table may be viable in some way.”