How Vermont prisons are dealing with COVID behind bars
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont correctional facilities are seeing a rise in COVID cases, courtesy of the omicron variant. Right now, there are only three cases in incarcerated individuals but 33 among employees.
Vicki Favreau’s son is incarcerated at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport. She says he got COVID during last year’s outbreak and wasn’t treated well.
“They refused to give him Tylenol for his fever and for his body aches,” she said.
Favreau worries the Vermont Department of Corrections is still not doing enough to keep incarcerated people safe.
“I think that the guards should be tested every day when they come in because that’s where most of the infections are going into the unit into the jail,” she said.
Vermont Corrections Commissioner Nick Deml says unvaccinated employees in those facilities undergo testing twice per week. He says that’s less than 30% of their staff.
“I’m very pleased with the plans we have in place and in the last two years we’ve demonstrated the effectiveness of that planning and execution,” Deml said.
Those plans include testing and quarantining incarcerated individuals as they enter the facility and masking.
Deml says the facilities go into lockdown when cases are climbing.
“Unfortunately, those lockdowns do have mental, emotional tolls that come with them at the end of the day, though the lockdowns are one of the best methods that we have when we do experience an increase in cases within a facility,” he said.
They do have mental health resources available to incarcerated individuals on tablets in their units. But Favreau says it’s not enough with the added layer of isolation that comes with lockdowns.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a counselor go in and talk to these guys about, you know, being how they feel about being locked in and what their mental health is,” she said.
Deml says they also try to make mental health resources available for the facilities staff.
In one of Vermont’s most notorious murder cases, Favreau shot and killed his foster mother, Vicki Campbell-Beer, in 2000 at their West Burke home. He did it as part of a plan hatched by Tashia Beer, Campbell-Beer’s stepdaughter.
Tashia Beer served time for manslaughter.
Scott Favreau was furloughed in 2019 but is now back behind bars because prosecutors say he broke into a Stowe jewelry store.
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