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The price of moving Vermont prisoners - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The price of moving Vermont prisoners

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WATERBURY, Vt. -

"We have today about 10-15 empty general population beds," Vt. Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard said. "Not 269."

That's 269 criminals Vermont does not have room for within its borders. Those inmates are shipped out of state.

"It is primarily people with long sentences for very serious offenses," Menard said.

We've learned Vermont's corrections commissioner is getting ready to move them.

"With any move of this size and disruption, obviously there are concerns," Menard said.

By next Tuesday, about 270 Vermont inmates will leave Michigan when Vermont's contract ends with a private prison there. They will travel nearly 800 miles to Pennsylvania. The men will be housed at Camp Hill State Correctional Institution. That's about 400 miles from the men’s prison in Springfield, Vermont.

"It will take some time for people to settle in. It has from every move we made," Menard said. "When we went from Kentucky to Michigan, the inmates did not want to move. Now, they don't want to leave."

Menard had six months to find a new prison after the Geo Group terminated Vermont's contract in Michigan when it wasn't filling the prison. Vermont considered eight bids. Menard says the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections was the only vendor to meet all Vermont's requirements. It was also the cheapest at $72 per inmate per day. That's still more expensive than the Michigan deal but $100 less than what Vermont spends on its in-state prisoners.

"We didn't really have a lot of time to come up with a better deal," said T.J. Donovan, D-Vt. Attorney General.

Donovan has long pushed to bring all Vermont inmates home. He can't put a date on when that will happen but he says this new three-year contract with a six-month cancellation clause is a move in the right direction.

"The good news is the state of Vermont is no longer contracting with a for-profit corporation to incarcerate Vermonters," Donovan said.

Reporter Jennifer Costa: What will inmates see change in Pennsylvania?

Lisa Menard: Well, they won't be the only inmates there.

The Pennsylvania prison is massive, almost 10 times larger than any Vermont prison. Vermonters will be in their own unit, though the agreement says they can be moved to a more secure prison called Graterford State Correctional Institution 90 miles away if necessary. When it comes to discipline, Vermont DOC policies apply. But we discovered the contract calls for inmates to follow Pennsylvania prison rules.

"Xboxes, PlayStations that are currently allowed in the Michigan facility are not going to be allowed in Pennsylvania," Menard said.

TVs are OK, so is cable as long as the inmates pay. They'll also be able to get a GED and work. But they'll have to apply for prison jobs just like other inmates.

"Ideally we would have all Vermont inmates in Vermont," Menard said. "We can't do that. This feels like a very good solution for right now."

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