August 20, 2019
Contact: Doug Gibson
VSEA President Dave Bellini and VSEA Board of Trustees member Joe Silvestri are blasting a story that aired last night on WCAX about Vermont Corrections staffing levels. In the piece, Department of Corrections Commissioner Mike Touchette tells a WCAX reporter that staffing is not an issue at Vermont’s correctional facilities; a statement Bellini, Silvestri and a majority of VSEA Corrections Unit members say is simply false.
“VSEA members have been providing testimony to lawmakers—for years— about chronic issues of understaffing, forced overtime and temp use inside Vermont’s prisons,” says Bellini. “If the WCAX reporter had reached out to the people actually doing the work inside prisons—or VSEA—for comment, I can assure you he would have a completely different take on the situation.”
“I’m pretty certain Commissioner Touchette has heard frontline DOC corrections employees’ calls for increased staffing loud and clear, and that he understands the staffing reality a lot more than he let on to WCAX," adds VSEA Board member and DOC employee Joe Silvestri. "We’ve communicated to him over and over that our prisons are not properly staffed and correctional officers are being force to do mandated overtime regularly. The commissioner stretched the truth here, and I think he knows it."
Silvestri is right, apparently. Commissioner Touchette sent an email to all DOC staff today about the WCAX interview. In it, he writes:
"Overtime rates are still very high for Vermont staff. Staff are working way too many hours and I recognize that this not only impacts your personal and family lives, but also makes doing the work even more difficult when you are tired.
My comments in this interview were in no way intended to diminish the realities of the Vermont correctional staffing needs. I apologize if it was construed as failing to recognize that we still have a lot of work to do, because we do."
- WCAX Story Outrages VSEA Corrections Members
- Hey WCAX! Just Five Months Ago, Chittenden DOC Members Were Educating Legislature’s Women’s Caucus About Staffing