The transfer of 280 Vermont prison inmates from a private prison in Kentucky to one in Michigan has been completed, a state Department of Corrections official said Tuesday.
"Everything went very well," Mike Touchette, the state's director of facility operations, said of Monday's move. "We encountered no problems with the population" of inmates who moved.
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The inmates were moved from the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, Kentucky, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, to the North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin, Michigan, owned by another private prison firm, GEO Group Inc.
Vermont made the switch for several reasons, Department of Corrections officials told a legislative committee last week. The Michigan facility will cost about $2,055 less per year, per prisoner than the Kentucky prison. Touchette said the Michigan facility is more modern and has better security. And it is about 140 miles closer to Vermont, cutting travel time for families who wish to visit inmates.
An additional 14 Vermont inmates who have been housed at a CCA prison in Arizona also will move to the Michigan prison, Touchette said. He said he could not say when because of security considerations.
For almost two decades, Vermont sent hundreds of inmates to prisons and jails out of state to save on costs and overcrowding. In recent years, with Vermont's prison population declining, advocates have been pushing to bring the Vermont inmates back to their home state.
"The biggest problem continues to be the difficulty of getting information, and the lack of public oversight" of the out-of-state prison operations, said Suzi Wizowaty, a former state representative who now is executive director of the group Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform.
She urged that more steps be taken to reduce Vermont's prison population, by ensuring housing for inmates due for release and reducing the numbers of people jailed on technical probation and parole violations. Wizowaty said that would free up more room in Vermont's prisons to bring inmates back.