Hey WCAX! Just Five Months Ago, Chittenden DOC Members Were Educating Legislature’s Women’s Caucus About Staffing

August 20, 2019

It was just five months ago that VSEA Corrections members from the Chittenden facility were at the State House to educate lawmakers and press in the room about their current work situation.

Here’s what appeared in VSEA’s weekly email newsletter from March 1, 2019:

After touring the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility last week, members of the Legislature’s Women’s Caucus asked to meet today with VSEA DOC members who work at the facility to discuss staffing and other employee concerns, as well as get some perspective on how it is to work with female inmates who are detoxing and the challenges associated. The workers lobbied for additional funding to help resolve the facility’s chronic staffing issues.

Note: Staffing is identified as a primary cause for concern at every Vermont corrections facility.

Here’s Another WIA Story From March 2015:

New Report Recommends DOC Hire 58 New Positions

A new study commissioned by lawmakers to examine current staffing levels within the Department of Corrections has determined that a need exists to hire as many as 58 new positions in order for Vermont’s seven correctional facilities to be adequately staffed.

The study, conducted by the Association of State Correctional Administrators and reported on by VTDigger, recommends that the DOC hire 29 Corrections Officers under current staffing practice and consider adding an extra 29 positions for safety and security reasons.

“Public safety, as well as officer and inmate safety, are the primary considerations in making these recommendations,” the report states.

VSEA DOC Unit Chair Dave Bellini is quoted in the story, saying, “VSEA’s corrections members have been telling the state and lawmakers for years that they needed to hire more full-time COs, but you see where that got us. At least we have proof now that our concerns are legitimate, and we hope this report will now lead to all of Vermont’s prisons being fully and adequately staffed.” Bellini expanded on his comment to WIA, adding, "VSEA was happy to see that the national experts agree with us that Vermont’s prisons are currently understaffed and that we need to add more positions. Not having enough frontline employees in our prisons creates a situation where there are safety concerns, not only for the employee but also for the inmates and maybe even for the public.”

In the story, DOC Deputy Commissioner Lisa Menard defends the DOC’s current staffing levels, telling Digger, “We run safe institutions,” but at the same time admitting, “However, there is overtime involved in that, and that’s not the best practice fiscally.”

Menard would not comment on whether or not the DOC would act on the recommendations, pending lawmakers review of the study after they receive it today.

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