VSEA Corrections Delegation To Meet With Governor To Discuss Staffing Crisis In Vermont Correctional Facilities

VSEA issued the following press release on July 1, 2021:

A delegation of Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) members belonging to the union’s Corrections Unit ​will be meeting with Governor Scott on Friday to discuss the myriad of issues and worries created by a constant lack of staff in Vermont’s correctional facilities. Joining the VSEA delegation will be VSEA leaders and staff.

“It is way past time for the state, lawmakers, and Department of Corrections’ management to seriously address the clear and very serious–possibly dangerous–short-staffing problem in correctional facilities that has existed for years,” says VSEA President Aimee Towne. “Sadly, an already demanding work environment has been made unbearable by COVID-19, which reduced staff even further in many of our facilities and placed even more stress on remaining frontline Corrections employees. More stress at work can translate to more stress at home.”

Towne says employees report sleeping in their cars at the prison to avoid crashing on the way home due to exhaustion after often being mandated to work a double shift of 16 hours. VSEA Corrections’ members also say the demands of the job and associated overtime are negatively impacting their family lives, meaning they are often missing important life events like births, graduations, celebrations. etc.

“It definitely takes a very serious toll,” adds Towne. “COVID-19 impacted nearly every sector of state government, but I believe Corrections was especially hard hit.” Towne reminds that Corrections employees were given garbage bags to wear as personal protective equipment and told to rinse them in disinfectant post-shift to be used again.

Towne says the VSEA delegation will be asking the Governor what ideas he might have to address short staffing in Vermont’s correctional facilities and for any ideas he has to improve recruitment and retention. The VSEA delegation will be sharing some ideas with the Governor on these issues​ that VSEA members think could be helpful.

“In the Department of Corrections, the staffing crisis is real, the inability to attract new employees is real and the loss of experienced staff is real,” stresses Towne. “Action must be taken now.”

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