Vermonters believe that everyone deserves fair treatment, no matter who they are or where they live -- and right now, our criminal justice system is not working for everyone. 

How can we make our criminal justice system more fair, equitable, and rooted in community-based solutions so that the system works for everyone? The ACLU has a plan for that.

Last week, we released our “Blueprint for Smart Justice,” which provides a roadmap to help end our overreliance on incarceration in Vermont.

This comprehensive report identifies the current problems in our criminal justice system and provides a list of detailed strategies for fixing them, including drug decriminalization, expanding alternatives to incarceration, investing in treatment for mental health and substance-use conditions, and reforms in Vermont’s bail, sentencing, and parole systems.

The Blueprint is part of a 50-state series commissioned by the ACLU’s national Smart Justice Campaign, in collaboration with the Urban Institute, and it provides a roadmap for cutting Vermont’s prison population by half.

The report notes that, despite progress in recent years, Vermont is still working to undo decades of “tough on crime” policies.  Between 1980 and 2009, the number of incarcerated Vermonters rose by 363 percent, before a series of legislative reforms started to reverse the trend. The number of Vermonters in prison today is still double what it was 30 years ago.

It also highlights the lack of readily accessible criminal justice data in Vermont, and that this serves as a major barrier to addressing unacceptable racial and geographic disparities.

We have both an opportunity and a responsibility to create a smarter criminal justice system for all Vermonters. Vermont and its elected leaders have shown that they are committed to doing just that – and it’s working. With continued innovation, Vermont can serve as a model for other states, and send a clear message that Vermonters care about their communities and want to invest in people, not prisons.

This Blueprint can help lead the way. We hope you can take a few minutes to read it and help us spread the word.

More information about the ACLU’s Smart Justice Vermont campaign is available on our campaign page

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