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Introduced by   Representatives Emmons of Springfield, Lippert of Hinesburg and Lorber of Burlington

Referred to Committee on


Subject:  Corrections; substance abuse treatment; probation; reentry to the community; vocational training; transitional housing; appropriations

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to stipulate that each offender shall be assessed for substance abuse treatment needs upon incarceration; authorize the commissioner of corrections to deduct time from a sentence of probation for good behavior; direct the commissioner to place all qualifying offenders on furlough 90 days prior to minimum sentence date; expand the department of corrections’ intensive substance abuse program to include more outpatients and residential treatment capacity; contract with community providers for substance abuse treatment for offenders on conditional reentry status; add substance abuse and vocational training programs to a work camp; increase the amount of transitional housing available for offenders reentering the community; expand the agency of human services’ comprehensive system of alcoholism prevention and treatment; appropriate funds for a pilot program to screen certain offenders for substance abuse prior to sentencing; establish goals for use of the programs established by this act and for reduction in recidivism as a result of the provisions of this act; require reports to the general assembly on the successes and problems of reaching the goals established in this act; and direct the joint fiscal office to evaluate the financial impact of this act on corrections costs.


It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


(a)  The general assembly finds that:

(1)  Vermont’s incarcerated population is growing at an unsustainable rate.

(2)  Property and drug offenders are the fastest growing segment of the prison population.  Between 2000 and 2006, over one-half the increase in the felony prison population was due to property and substance abuse offenses.

(3)  Seventy-seven percent of those sentenced for a property or drug felony have a substance abuse disorder.  Two-thirds of them report having received mental health treatment in the past.  Fifty-five percent report being frequently unemployed prior to incarceration.

(4)  Of those incarcerated for a property or drug felony, only 13 percent are receiving treatment.

(b)  The general assembly further finds that:

(1)  Each month approximately 70 inmates meet the criteria for reentering the community under the supervision of the commissioner of corrections.  However, almost one-half are not released because of insufficient housing options.

(2)  For many low risk offenders, studies show that a minimum sentence is likely to deter re-offense, and that a longer sentence does not decrease the likelihood of re-offense.  Therefore, statute authorizes the commissioner of corrections to release certain offenders 90 days prior to the minimum sentence date.  However, on average, eligible inmates are not released until 53 days prior to the minimum sentence date.

(c)  Therefore, in order to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and reduce the cost to the state of incarcerating offenders, it is the intent of the general assembly to increase substance abuse treatment services, vocational training, and transitional housing available to offenders; provide incentives for offenders to engage in positive behaviors; and establish processes for reducing incarceration time when appropriate. 

Sec. 2.  28 V.S.A. § 1(b) is amended to read:

(b)  The department shall formulate its programs and policies recognizing that almost all criminal offenders ultimately return to the community, and that the traditional institutional prisons fail to reform or rehabilitate, operating instead to increase the risk of continued criminal acts following release.  The department shall develop and implement a comprehensive program which will provide necessary closed custodial confinement of frequent, dangerous offenders, but which also will establish as its primary objective the disciplined preparation of offenders for their responsible roles in the open community.  The department shall ensure that the comprehensive program required by this subsection includes a process by which each offender sentenced to any term of imprisonment other than for life without parole, within 30 days after receiving his or her sentence, shall begin to develop and implement a plan preparing for return to the community.  The department shall assess each offender for substance abuse treatment needs, using an assessment tool designed to assess the suitability of a broad range of treatment services, and use the results of this assessment in preparing the reentry plan.  The department may assess an offender sentenced to a minimum term of more than five years later than 30 days after receiving the sentence but at least within a year of receiving the sentence.

Sec. 3.  28 V.S.A. § 252(d) is added to read:

(d)  Each month, the commissioner shall review the record of each probationer convicted of a felony and serving a specified term, and may deduct 30 days from the period of probation if the offender has not committed a serious violation of the conditions of probation during that month.  The deduction shall be made at the sole discretion of the commissioner pursuant to a rule adopted by the commissioner under 3 V.S.A. chapter 25.

Sec. 4.  28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(8)(A) is amended to read:

(8)  To prepare for reentry into the community.

(A)  Any offender sentenced to incarceration may shall be furloughed to the community up to 90 days prior to completion of the minimum sentence, at the commissioner's discretion and in accordance with rules adopted pursuant to subdivision (C) of this subdivision (8), provided that an offender sentenced to a minimum term of fewer than 180 days shall not be eligible for furlough under this subdivision until the offender has served at least one-half of his or her minimum term of incarceration.


(a)  The amount of $1,200,005.00 is appropriated to the commissioner of corrections.  Of this amount:

(1)  $1.00 shall be to increase the capacity of the department of corrections’ intensive substance abuse program (ISAP) to provide services to those participating on an intensive out-patient basis;

(2)  $1.00 shall be to expand the ISAP program to include a residential substance abuse treatment component for those who have been furloughed to the community pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7);

(3)  $1.00 shall be for entering into contract with several community based substance abuse treatment providers in different geographic regions of the state, to provide the substance abuse treatment services to persons on conditional reentry status pursuant to subchapter 1A. of chapter 11 of 28 V.S.A.;

(4)  $1.00 shall be to administer the provisions of 28 V.S.A. § 252(d);

(5)  $1.00 shall be to provide vocational training and residential substance abuse programs in a work camp; and

(6)  $1,200,000.00 shall be to provide grants to community providers of transitional housing to increase the number of beds available by 60 beds for three to six months of housing for at least 120 offenders reentering the community on furlough pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808 or conditional reentry pursuant to subchapter 1A of chapter 11 of Title 28. 

(b)  The amount of $1.00 is appropriated to the secretary of human services to:

(1)  expand the capacity of community alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment providers to provide services; and

(2)  establish a pilot program to conduct a presentence screening and assessment of a sample of those convicted of property and drug offenses in fiscal year 2009, for substance abuse treatment needs.  The purpose of the screening and assessment shall be to inform the judge at the time of sentencing so that the judge can use the information to determine the level of treatment to be provided while in the custody of the commissioner.  The secretary shall work with the court to develop a process for conducting the screenings and assessments and to select a location or locations to conduct the pilot.


(a)  On or before January 15, 2010, the commissioner of corrections shall report to the senate committee on judiciary and the house committees on institutions and on corrections on the number of probation violations resulting in incarceration, the percentage of probationers who did not receive earned time credits under 28 V.S.A. § 252(d), and the percentage of probationers who successfully completed probations in fiscal year 2009.  The commission shall also report on the successes of and problems encountered in working to meet the following goals with the funds provided and through the programs established in this act:

(1)  increase by at least 30 the number of offenders with sentences of one or more years placed in the department of corrections’ intensive substance abuse program (ISAP) pursuant to 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7);

(2)  place at least 10 offenders assessed as in most severe need of drug treatment and who are furloughed under 28 V.S.A. § 808(a)(7) in a

community-based residential substance abuse treatment program;

(3) move to a community-based residential substance abuse treatment program at least 10 offenders who are in the intensive phase of receiving ISAP services, and who are unsuccessful and would otherwise be reincarcerated;

(4)  incarcerate no more than 20 percent of offenders who are  receiving substance abuse treatment services under 28  V.S.A. § 808(a)(7),

(5)  reduce by 10 percent the number of reincarcerations of those on conditional reentry with a high need for substance abuse treatment;

(6)   reduce by 10 percent the number probation violations resulting in incarceration and the rate of probation violations resulting in a period of incarceration; and

(7)  increase the number of inmates released on furlough, pursuant to 28  V.S.A. § 808, by 25 individuals per month, and increase the average number of days released prior to the minimum sentence to as close to 90 days as possible. 

(b)  Until the corrections oversight committee informs the commissioner that it no longer requires the information, the commissioner shall include in monthly reports to the committee:

(1)  the number of inmates eligible for furlough under 28 V.S.A.

§ 808 and considered appropriate for release by the commissioner but who have not been released because the commissioner is unable to find appropriate housing, employment, treatment, or other services;

(2)  which treatment or other services would have been necessary to enable release; and

(3)  the number of days of incarceration that could have been avoided if the community resources had been available, and these offenders had been released.

(c)  The joint fiscal office and office of finance and management shall jointly document the impact of the policies and provisions of this act on corrections costs and shall report their findings to the general assembly on or before January 15, 2010 and in January of each year for five years thereafter.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont