Vermont to Reinvest Criminal Justice Savings in Domestic Violence Programming

October 23, 2020

In this time of tightened budgets across the nation, Vermont’s recently passed budget adjustment includes reinvesting nearly $700,000 saved through reductions in out-of-state private prison contracts. The money will go toward community-based programs to reduce recidivism with a likely focus on programs for people who are supervised for domestic violence offenses.

The savings came on the heels of Vermont’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which launched in 2019 with intensive technical support from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center. This effort led to a bipartisan criminal justice bill designed to reduce recidivism and corrections costs.

Data analysis during the JRI project revealed that nearly 80 percent of prison admissions in Vermont were due to returns or revocations from community supervision. As a result, Vermont’s Justice Reinvestment II Working Group, the body overseeing the JRI effort, identified reinvesting in community-based services as a top priority to help people on supervision connect with the supports they most need to succeed.

Further analysis showed a 23-percent increase in domestic violence offenses from 2015 to 2019, underscoring the need for additional programming to address this issue. Assessments of these programs also indicated that existing domestic violence community programs were limited in their ability to tailor treatment based on risk factors.

“Vermont is committed to reinvesting savings that come from reducing the number of people housed in out-of-state prisons,” said Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington). “Justice Reinvestment helped our state identify the problems we are facing—as well as solutions—in a way that will uphold safety and justice for Vermonters. Effective community-based programs are crucial for reducing instances of domestic violence in our state, and this reinvestment will help us do that.”

Photo credit: Kate Williams via Unsplash

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Ellen Whelan-Wuest
Program Director, State Initiatives
Ellen Whelan-Wuest provides policy research, analysis, and technical assistance to states going through the justice reinvestment process. Previously, she worked for the county manager in Durham, North Carolina, where she served on the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and researched issues
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relating to medical care costs for the county jail system and the youth home detention facility. Ellen also worked as the Brooklyn director for a New York State Senator, and as a special assistant to the state director for a U.S. Senator in Chicago. Ellen holds a BA in Latin American history and sociology from Middlebury College, and an MA in public policy from Duke University.
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