Public Safety

Prisons don’t make us safer. 

Most people who are imprisoned get out. They are not likely to do better after they are released because their opportunities to find positive paths forward in their lives are restricted by their criminal records, and their experience in prison is often psychologically debilitating. Reducing reliance on prisons can save the state so much money going forward that we could more easily afford to invest in strengthening families and communities by meeting people’s needs.

Restorative justice programs should be the first line of intervention and we need to invest in these programs so that they have the resources to mitigate potential risks and optimize the potential for people who have been convicted of crimes to make positive contributions to society and find a more productive path forward in their lives. 

We don’t need a new $70 million prison for women. We don’t need to spend over $90,00/year to keep per person to keep people who are not a threat to society in prison. By shifting funding from imprisonment to investing in preventing crime and in intervening in restorative ways we can increase public safety, improve many people’s day to day lives, and still save money. We know how to do this. Vermont Law School offers a master’s degree in Restorative Justice and and there are multiple examples of effective programs around the world. We just have to agree to do what works instead of what has always been done.

Many of the people in Vermont prisons haven’t been convicted of a crime. We could could develop less expensive and less restrictive ways to temporarily place people who have not been released on conditions and are awaiting trial.  

The war on drugs doesn’t reduce drug addiction or the damage associated with it. We need to work with National Institute of Drug Addiction to develop ways to take the profit out of drug dealing and reduce harm to people who have addictions. We need to expand access to treatment and provide treatment approaches that are adequate to the needs of people seeking treatment. I know this is expensive, but it is less expensive than dealing with the harm done by drugs after the fact and is less expensive than long term imprisonment.  

We are safest when everyone can meet their basic needs, families and communities are supported, childcare and education systems are strong, and people have opportunities to create positive paths forward in their lives.