By Brent Addleman | The Center Square
Prisons in Vermont are still facing challenges regarding staffing issues and incarcerated individuals, a new study shows.
The second round of results were released this week in the Prison Research and Innovation Network initiative, which is a collaboration between the University of Vermont and the state’s Department of Corrections. The study is an effort to gather data and spur innovation in the state’s prisons.
The study is directed at finding ways to make Vermont prisons safer, more human, and rehabilitative. The survey was conducted in June 2022, with key findings released this week.
The study says prisons in the state are understaffed, have low morale, poor mental health, and an overall lack of activities for inmates that promote well-being and build skills that will help them upon release.
Kathy Fox and Abigail Crocker, who are co-founders of the university’s Justice Research Initiative, led the university’s portion of the study.
“These two years of data demonstrate incarceration as a public health issue, both for staff and for incarcerated individuals,” Crocker said in a release.
“This is consistent with what we are seeing around the country, and COVID-19 has really magnified this.” Fox said in a release. “The fact that we saw mostly negative changes demonstrates how difficult it is to improve the prison environment, but also why change is so necessary.”
The goals, according to the release, of the study are to provide an understanding of prison environments, helping prisons gather data to promote transparency and accountability, and support evidence-based changes to improve prisons.
The report, according to the release, showed a downward trend over 2021. Responses indicated a decline between staff and inmates, disagreements about what the primary purpose of prisons are, and the impact of medical assisted treatment.
In addition, the groups survived reported suicideal ideation increase over the past year, as 30% of staff and 37% of inmates disclosed “serious consideration” of self-harm over the past year.
According to the study, the group has continued to make progress, although additional work and research remains.
“PRIN continues to be an essential tool in creating transparency in our correctional system and guiding evidence-based improvements,” Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Nicholas Deml said in a release. “Vermont is a national leader in voluntarily welcoming researchers into its facilities and gathering important data on the deep-rooted issues facing staff and those in our care and custody. While these results are sobering, the data clearly tell us we need to make major investments in this system and continue to study our progress.”
Categories: State Government