Vermont’s Southeast State Correctional Facility to Close

WINDSOR, Vt. — The Southeast State Correctional Facility (SSCF) in Windsor is currently set to shut down by Oct. 31 due to excessively high operational costs. While deemed the most beautiful prison in the state since its opening in 1916, it has also been named the most expensive.

In the fiscal year of 2016, SSCF expenses ran at $48,000 more per inmate than an out-of-state prison — where Vermont also had to send some of its offenders. The prison has 100 beds at a rate of $77,769 annually per bed. This rate is $15,000 more than the average Vermont prison.

The prison had many features and programs that made it special; inmates ran a dairy and slaughtering operation, grew vegetables, manufactured license plates and rehabilitated old bicycles. Additionally, inmates did light construction and grounds keeping work in local communities, and recently built the Hartford Police Department’s new offices and holding cells in White River Junction, Vt. Every year around Christmas, the inmates made and donated hundreds of wooden toys to Toys for Tots.

While the minimum-security prison has become unwieldy due to its costs, these programs of the prison make it highly valuable to the community, and legislators are determined that this facility closure will be temporary, with ideas of re-opening the prison as a re-entry facility. Lawmakers have given Lisa Menard, department of corrections commissioner, until November to report on the costs and benefits of creating a new version of the facility, with the temporary closure a means of buying time in the interim.

As Oct. 31 nears, three of the four cell blocks of the prison are currently empty, with only 35 inmates remaining. Some facility employees are transferring to other facilities while others are moving into different fields. Menard is attempting to keep layoffs to a minimum during this time of transition.

The temporary closure of the facility has created a sense of urgency to create the proposal for a revamped version of the facility before too much times passes. Legislators indicated that they will act accordingly in a letter written to the governor of Vermont on Aug. 15., according to a recent interview with Sevendaysvt.com.

“We believe that this desperately needed piece of Vermont’s corrections strategy should be up and running as soon as possible,” wrote Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Sears (D-Bennington) and House Corrections and Institutions Committee Chair Alice Emmons (D-Springfield) in the letter to the governor, emphasizing their interest in converting the prison into a re-entry center.

Rachel Leber

Rachel Leber is a freelance writer at Emlen Media. She can be reached directly at rachel@emlenmedia.com.

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