ACLU Statement on Reports of Rape, Assault, and Other Misconduct by Vermont DOC Officials

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Dec. 6, 2019               

MONTPELIER, Vt. – This week, a Seven Days investigation revealed “credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault” involving more than a dozen correctional officers employed at Vermont’s only women’s prison, Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), going back to 2011. They include reports of officials who pursued and raped formerly incarcerated women in the community, as well as inside CRCF. Few of these allegations appear to have resulted in disciplinary action.

ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall: “The ACLU is appalled by these credible allegations of extensive, longstanding abuse by DOC officials, and by the fact that women’s reports of abuse have not been taken more seriously. This investigation exposes the horrific human toll of Vermont DOC’s cultural and institutional failings, which must be addressed immediately. It also underscores how urgently we need to transform our justice system so that prison is seen as the very last resort, not the first.

This year, Vermont has re-committed to creating a smarter criminal justice system by expanding alternatives to incarceration and community-based solutions, and further reducing the number of people incarcerated. The ACLU and our members support a justice system that invests in the people and families of our state, and not in prisons. Ultimately, that is the only way we can ensure that abuses like these do not continue.”

ACLU of Vermont Smart Justice Organizer Ashley Messier: “As deeply upsetting as these findings are, they are not surprising to the thousands of people and families harmed by incarceration every day. Prisons are by definition coercive, violent, and inhumane, and new prison construction – no matter how much thought is put into the lighting, the paint, or the design – cannot do anything to change that fact. That is why Vermont must reduce its reliance on prisons and instead invest in the people who call it home. Communities are strongest when justice is restorative and healing, and when families stay connected – none of which is achieved through incarceration."

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