Hear from Newport Students on a New Approach to Criminal Justice Reform

Dear Fellow Vermonter,

There can be little debate: The way we run our prison systems in the United States is ineffective. We spend an enormous amount of money locking people up, but do a very poor job in rehabilitating them or helping them come out of jail to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

In our country today we have a recidivism rate of more than 70% within five years. This means that, within five years of their release, more than 70% of prisoners will have committed another offense. That’s a pretty pathetic record. Meanwhile, despite those terrible results, taxpayers spend an enormous amount of money maintaining that failed system. In Vermont, for example, we pay an estimated $90,000 a year to incarcerate one person.

As we continue this fight to bring about real change in our criminal justice system, I want to keep you updated on some positive changes that are taking place right here in Vermont. A few weeks ago, I shared with you some good news: A new program that is taking a different approach to criminal justice reform. This program, called the Corrections Post-Secondary Education Initiative (CPSEI), offers education opportunities to people while they are serving their sentences. It also may be the first of its kind in the United States to extend these free classes to the dedicated staff and workers of the corrections system.

Now I hope you’ll take a moment to watch the video below and hear from the students themselves about their experience in the classroom.


When I visited the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport to hear directly from staff and incarcerated Vermonters, I was very glad to see a lot of excitement from the students about the program. I also want to thank the teachers there for their hard work.

To my mind, it does not make much sense to lock someone up for years, not offer any opportunities for growth and learning, and then expect that person to be changed for the better upon their release. We need more opportunities like this program across the country. If it works well here, I am hopeful we can make it a national program.





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