Opinion
December 3, 2014

State won’t appeal DOC lawsuit

By Laura Krantz, VTDigger.org

The state will not appeal a court decision that deemed it unconstitutional to send male, but not female, inmates out of state, state officials say. In a lower court ruling this summer, Judge Helen Toor ordered the Department of Corrections to return Michael Carpenter, a prisoner sent to Kentucky, to Vermont.

The state houses about 500 inmates in Kentucky and Arizona at facilities run by the private company Corrections Corporation of America, because Vermont facilities are overcrowded.

The judge ruled it violated Carpenter’s constitutional right to equal protection because he was not able to visit his children the same way that female inmates can who are not sent out of state.

DOC officials, however, told lawmakers last week that on the advice of their attorneys they do not plan to appeal the case because it only applies to Carpenter, and a Supreme Court ruling might include a broader mandate, such as an order to return all out-of-state inmates.

“The better direction is make a couple of the changes on the parenting piece,” DOC Commissioner Andy Pallito told the Corrections Oversight Committee last week.

Carpenter has meanwhile been returned to Vermont and is living at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, according to the state’s online offender locator database.

In general, the practice of sending Vermont prisoners to private prisons out-of-state is controversial. At the Corrections Oversight Committee meeting last week, lawmakers discussed the ruling and how to reduce the dependence on out-of-state prisons.

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