ACLU Urges Governor Scott to Take Immediate Action to Protect People in Vermont Prisons

Growing Alarm Over Heightened Risk of Infection for People in Custody

March 18, 2020

MONTPELIER, Vt. – The ACLU of Vermont today urged Governor Scott to take immediate action to address the vulnerability of people living and working in Vermont prisons to the Coronavirus pandemic. A growing number of law enforcement and health experts have expressed alarm at the heightened risk of infection, severe complications, and death from COVID-19 for people in the prison system.

Specifically, the ACLU called on the Governor to release as many people from custody as possible, including elderly prisoners at heightened risk of harm. The ACLU is urging that police and prosecutors limit new prison admissions. And, the ACLU reiterated its previous recommendations in a letter sent to DOC last week, which asks the state to adequately screen all people admitted to DOC custody, and take steps to ensure the humanity, dignity, and health of those who remain in Vermont’s prisons — as well as those incarcerated out of state.

ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Duff Lyall: “This crisis calls for immediate action to save the lives of people who live and work in Vermont’s prisons, and by extension, their families and communities. People in our prisons are housed in extremely close quarters and are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. Many are older or have serious medical conditions, and many are in prison simply because they can’t afford bail, because they lack adequate housing, or as a result of substance use disorder. The state must act quickly to ensure their safety.”

A copy of the letter to Governor Scott can be read or downloaded below.