And finally, here’s the fuller version of the Monday presser.
Today’s topic was fighting recidivism. There were two announcements; highlights first, details after the jump.
— A new DUI Treatment Court. The idea is to give repeat DUI offenders an opportunity to clean up their act with disciplined, consistent oversight by the courts. Bobby Sand is leaving his post as Windsor County State’s Attorney to head up the effort, which will be paid for by a three-year federal grant totaling roughly $300,000.
— A merger of the Community High School of Vermont and Vermont Correctional Industries. The aim is to give inmates real, marketable job skills by the time they leave prison.
There won’t be a formal news conference tomorrow, but Shumlin will be attending a dedication ceremony for the mental hospital in Berlin. And today he hinted at major announcements about the mental health care system he’ll be making tomorrow. The likely focus of those announcements became clear late today, when VTDigger reported that FEMA is set to announce its funding for new psychiatric facilities to replace the shuttered Vermont State Hospital.
On an unrelated subject, former top Shumlin aide Alex MacLean has a new job. She’s signing on with Bill Stenger’s big Northeast Kingdom deal. Actual job title: Project Manager for the Northeast Kingdom Economic Development Initiative.
In English? “I will be helping Bill and his team with investor relations and investor recruitment as well as the communications efforts around the various projects.”
As for why she’s taking the job: “I’m from the Northeast Kingdom, born and raised there, and I’m just thrilled to have the opportunity to help create jobs and revitalize that region.”
Her close ties with Shumlin won’t hurt either.
More on recidivism after the jump.
When Bobby Sand stepped to the microphone, he immediately cemented himself as my favorite State’s Attorney by quoting the great science fiction writer WIlliam Gibson: “The future is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
In this case, a reference to anti-DUI initiatives launched in Sand’s bailiwick. He’ll now be charged with even distribution throughout the state.
The new thing is usually called “DUI Treatment Courts,” although as Sand noted, it’s not actually a new court; it’s a new docket within the established court system. But adopting the common terminology, the DUI court is aimed at getting repeat offenders to clean up their act:
These people are convicted and sentenced. The bargain the judge strikes with the defendant is, after serving any mandatory jail required by the Legislature, and after or during a period of license suspension, the judge says, ‘If you are willing as a condition of your probation, to come back in front of me on a regular basis, every two weeks, and to account for the progress you have made in treatment, and to be held accountable if there has been a relapse, then you have earned the benefit of staying in the community.”
There is something about returning on a regular basis to the court to speak to a judge that makes a significant difference in helping people recover from an addiction.
Other states that have launched DUI courts have found that they actually save money on law enforcement — $2-4 for every dollar spent — by successfully rehabbing those repeat offenders.
As for the educational/training initiative, Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito noted that efforts to reduce prison populations in the past decade have resulted in a more than 50% decline in inmates 21 or younger. That means the remaining inmates are older and more difficult to rehabilitate.
But those are exactly the inmates that will need to be helped, if Corrections is to meet Legislative mandates to reduce recidivism over the next five years.
The solution, they hope: A merger of inmate education and job-training efforts designed to create a “seamless program” from sentencing to release. “Corrections education has been two different silos,” said WIlhelmina Picard, Director of Corrections Education. In the future, she said, inmates
…will leave with a professional portfolio, and they will have a transitional instructor to help them bridge the gap, whether it’s to an educational agency or to a workplace position.
The goal is to improve service while reducing program costs. It all sounded good at the presser; the tough part will be making it work, especially when dealing with the state’s most chronic and intransigent offenders.