"We've got a person who is basically a serial burglar. At least at times in his life," said Justin Jiron, a deputy prosecutor for Chittenden County. "How do we protect the public going forward?"
"Jail is completely counterproductive to what we are trying to achieve," said Sandra Lee, Verge's lawyer.
It's a case that sparked debate in a Burlington courtroom. Confessed burglar David Verge, 33, of Essex, is answering for his crimes-- nine break-ins during a 5-month span in 2011. He stole to get high, a problem all too familiar to the court.
"It's a pervasive problem in the area, not just Burlington, but around the state," Jiron said.
Verge's drug use started when he was 8. By 14 he was addicted to opiates, in jail by 18, and he spent most of the next 14 years behind bars, never going more than three days without drugs-- bartering for a fix on the inside.
"Throughout his entire time while incarcerated, he used. It was readily available," Lee said.
"I hated myself for the person I was," Verge said.
Verge told the court his days used to revolve around finding his next fix, a cycle that continued until he sought support. Daily suboxone treatment and a stable home life have kept him clean and crime-free and out of jail for the last 15 months.
"For the first time people see the good in me and not just what my bads are, my bad traits. They have faith in me," Verge said.
His lawyer called for 30 days in jail followed by 6 months home confinement. But the state wanted a 6-12 year sentence. The judge-- concerned with ruining Verge's recovery-- compromised on 18 months behind bars.
"You have made extraordinary progress. However it's more than just about you. There's a public to consider. There's victims to consider," Vt. Superior Court Judge Linda Levitt said.
The state says the sentence is a gamble. And prosecutors are not convinced it's long enough to deter future criminals.
"There are people who can turn their lives around and change. Whether Mr. Verge is one of those is hard to know at this point," Jiron said.
Will a habitual offenders' success survive another stint in prison? Only time will tell.
Verge could have gotten up to 25 years in prison on the home invasion burglary charges or even a life sentence as a habitual offender.
Some counseling and substance abuse treatment is available in prison, but it's not as robust as it is on the outside. Verge will only be able to get his suboxone prescription for the first 30 days before DOC weans him off. Corrections says it does not want to become the substance abuse treatment center for the state.
Thursday, December 12 2013 12:02 PM EST2013-12-12 17:02:24 GMT
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