Vermont has long sent its overflow inmates to the Corrections Corporation of America, a company that houses them in prisons in Kentucky and Arizona. But now, the state will instead contract with The GEO Group, which will imprison the inmates in a Baldwin, Mich., facility.
The Vermont Department of Corrections announced Tuesday it has signed a two-year contract to send up to 675 inmates to a newly reopened 1,912-bed North Lake Correctional Facility, with options for two one-year extensions. Seven Days reported last week that the contract was likely. Inmate transfers will begin "during the second quarter of 2015," DOC announced. The contract with CCA ends June 30.
Vermont has long depended on out-of-state facilities to handle a prison population that has outgrown the state’s prisons. Prison-rights activists have argued against the practice, saying it puts inmates far from family support in for-profit facilities that have been criticized for skimping on security and health care. This year, in the newly passed state budget, legislators directed a legislative oversight committee to consider a new state facility to house all of the state's male inmates.
Under the new contract, Vermont will pay $61.80 per day per inmate, down from the $67.43 a day it now pays CCA, for an estimated savings of $653,474 a year, the corrections department said in a news release. That's based on the state’s current out-of-state prison population of 318 inmates.
Vermont inmates will be the only ones housed at the Michigan facility for now and will be separate from other inmates in the future, the department said.
State officials said they considered the new facility’s closer proximity to Vermont and the company’s history of lawsuits and confinement conditions before opting for the new contract. As part of the deal, GEO will offer Vermont inmates education, vocational and employment opportunities.