2018 Criminal Justice Reform Legislative Reforms

The ACLU and our partners are working with lawmakers to advance an ambitious series of reforms. Read our letter to lawmakers here.

Bail Reform

Perhaps nothing would have a larger impact on reducing the number of people we incarcerate than bail reform. In Vermont, around 400 people are incarcerated pretrial every day; many of them are there simply because they cannot afford to pay bail. We are urging the legislature to take action this session to ensure that no one is incarcerated simply because they are poor.

Drug Policy Reform

Vermont just became the first state to decriminalize marijuana by legislation (other states have done so via ballot referendum). This is an important step forward, but we still have a long way to go to end the failed and costly War on Drugs. Further decriminalization, investments in treatment services, and establishment of safe injection sites—all of these things are still needed to shift the emphasis from punishment to treatment.

Other Legislative Reforms in Progress

Further, the legislature has already introduced a number of bills that would significantly reduce the prison population in Vermont. We’re advocating for speedy passage and implementation of this legislation.

Reducing Prison Population

  • H. 150: establishes procedure for compassionate release of inmates with serious medical conditions that render them unlikely to present a danger to society
  • H. 469: prohibits incarcerating an inmate after their minimum release date simply because they lack appropriate housing
  • H. 123: creates a process, including hearings, for responding to an alleged furlough violation

Preventing Incarceration

  • H. 213: expands access to drug and DUI treatment courts statewide
  • H. 423: increases monetary thresholds for crimes to be treated as felonies
  • H. 108/S. 107: establishes ‘safer drug consumption programs,’ setting up sites where people can safely consume pre-obtained drugs and receive counseling and other services

Reducing Collateral Consequences

  • S. 86, S. 173, S. 234: expand the availability of record expungement and sealing for certain crimes and offenders

Improving Conditions

  • H. 370: limits solitary confinement for inmates with serious functional impairments to 24 hours in a 7-day period
  • H. 381: limits the use of physical restraints on juvenile offenders
  • H. 468/S. 166: expands medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in incarceration settings