The Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) has scheduled its first correctional "town meetings" where members of the public can weigh in on departmental directives, policies and other topics of interest to inmates' families, friends and advocates.
The first corrections town meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. The dates, times and locations of those town meetings can all be found here.
As Seven Daysreported in July, the town meeting-style approach will replace Vermont's Corrections Citizen Advisory Group (CCAG) which Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito disbanded during the summer due to ongoing concerns about dwindling attendance at its quarterly meetings, as well as its somewhat dysfunctional membership. In July, Pallito told members of the Legislative Corrections Oversight Committee that the meetings had become unduly burdensome and unproductive, with some of its members "wasting my time."
In a written statement this week, Pallito said he hopes the new town meetings, which are modeled after an approach used in other states such as Colorado, will be more productive. The meetings will be held via interactive television at Vermont Interactive Technologies sites in Bennington, Brattleboro, Rutland, Montpelier, Newport, Williston and St. Albans.
"We hope citizens, other stakeholders and community partners will take part in these meetings and provide the department with constructive and open input," Pallito said.
The CCAG was created in 2005 in response to widespread criticisms of systemic problems in Vermont's prison system, which included the deaths of seven Vermont inmates in a short period of time. Since then, however, several former CCAG members had complained that the group had delivered on few, if any, of its initial promises for more transparency and openness into DOC operations. Robert Appel, executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, described the few CCAG meetings he attended as "less than meaningful. In other words, it was bullshit."