May 31, 2024  

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, ACLU of Vermont, [email protected][http://,/], (802) 223-6304 x111 

(Montpelier, VT) – Governor Scott signed H.534 yesterday, a bill to make it easier to incarcerate people by increasing penalties for low-level thefts. 

The following statement was issued by ACLU of Vermont Advocacy Director Falko Schilling

“H.534 is one of multiple bills the legislature enacted that will send more people to prison without addressing the root causes of instability in our communities. Taken together, these bills increase penalties for low-level thefts, further criminalize drug-related offenses, call for more juveniles to be charged as adults, and again delay implementation of essential juvenile justice reforms. 

“As signed into law, H.534 will allow the state to charge people with a felony—and sentence people for up to ten years in prison—for recurring petty retail theft. Given that women, people in poverty, and people with substance use disorder are disproportionately arrested for these types of offenses, this legislation would lock up more Vermonters who especially need help, not handcuffs.   

“Extreme and excessive sentencing is a major driver of mass incarceration and does not improve public safety. This bill represents a major step backward on criminal justice reform.”