ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall: “We learned yesterday that six incarcerated Vermonters returning from Mississippi have tested positive for COVID-19, and that one person still imprisoned in Mississippi tested positive earlier this week. This latest news from Vermont’s Department of Corrections is disturbing, but also predictable. 

The ACLU and our allies have called on the Scott administration to test Vermonters incarcerated out of state for months, and they have refused to do so. Even now, DOC has no idea how many Vermonters incarcerated in Mississippi may have COVID-19, because up to this point, they have not bothered to check. It took weeks of sustained advocacy just to convince the Scott administration to start testing in state facilities, even though people who live and work in our prisons are among the most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. And Governor Scott has refused to act to safely release more people—including people nearing the end of their sentences, or those who remain incarcerated only because their required programming has been suspended—as governors in other state have done to safeguard public health.

From the preventable death of Kenneth Johnson to the sexual abuse of women in CRCF to the denial of Hepatitis C treatment to hundreds of people—we have seen too many examples of callous indifference to the lives and safety of people in state custody, as well as the families and communities to whom they are connected. Other than misstatements and spin, DOC still has not answered for or accepted responsibility for these failures. Vermont must do better. No one was sentenced to suffer or die in prison from a pandemic.”