According to a new report, the number of young people who are under the supervision of the Corrections Department has fallen almost 30 percent over the past two years and the Shumlin Administration is launching a new initiative to further reduce this number.
When he first ran for governor in 2010, reducing the number of repeat offenders in Vermont’s corrections system was a top priority for Peter Shumlin. Based on a new report, the governor’s policies seem to be having an impact.
In 2010, there were roughly 1,300 people between the age of 18 and 21 under the supervision of the Corrections Department. Some were in jail, some were on parole and others were on probation.
Today that number stands at 938 – or almost a 30 percent reduction. Shumlin says there are a number of factors leading to this decline.
"We have the courage of our convictions to provide the treatment to housing to job training to mental health counseling to internships," said Shumlin. "And the hope for a better future that gives our non violent offenders the ability to rejoin a productive lifestyle in Vermont and that’s incredibly important."
The governor also announced a new initiative that’s designed to keep repeat DUI offenders out of jail if they agree to participate in alcohol treatment programs after they’ve been sentenced for their crime.
Shumlin tapped long time Windsor County State’s Attorney Bobby Sand to help set up so called "DUI Courts" throughout the state.
"DUI treatment courts are accountability courts," said Sand. "These offenders are convicted of their offenses and they are sentenced. Their sentences are not deferred they are not diverted."
After their sentencing, Sand says offenders are offered a choice. Go to jail or participate in a treatment program and report to a judge on a regular basis.
"If they are committed to addressing their addiction and to coming back in front of the judge on a regular basis to account for their progress in treatment and if they are willing to suffer swift sanctions the courts say you can stay out of jail. If they violate those terms they lose that benefit and they are incarcerated."
Sand says there is solid evidence in pilot projects across the country that the treatment option can be very successful.
"Exactly what it is I’m not sure anyone has specifically pinpointed and maybe we will gain some insight into that process but the recurrent accountability to the sentencing judge in addition to the close supervision by a probation officer has proven to assist people in overcoming their addiction."
Sand’s office will initially be funded through a 3 year federal grant and he hopes that most counties in the state will establish a DUI Court Docket during this time period.