VSEA President Sends Message To DOC Members Concerning Peter Shumlin’s Corrections Plan

Some VSEA members seek clarification on candidate’s plan to save $40 million through DOC savings.

Dear Corrections Members,


Many of you have written over the past couple of days to express concern with the rumors and press reports that Senator Shumlin plans to cut $40 million (over 4 years) out of the DOC budget if he is elected governor. Given that the VSEA Board and Council voted overwhelmingly to support Peter, members have questioned whether such a large cut can be made without resulting in the closure of prisons or further reductions in the workforce.


Yesterday, I made a point to sit down with the Senator to gain a better understanding of his proposal in hopes that I could clarify his positions for our DOC unit. Here are a few of the key points he made:


      First and foremost, Peter Shumlin has not said that he will cut $40 million from corrections.  What Senator Shumlin plans to do is get our skyrocketing corrections spending under control, increase opportunities for staff and decrease turnover while making our communities safer.      

          The DOC workforce has already been cut to the bone and any further staff reductions would jeopardize the core mission of the Department. There will be no position reductions or facility closures on the table in a Shumlin Administration.

          Currently almost 700 inmates are housed in private, out-of-state prisons owned by the Corrections Corporation of America. This contract costs taxpayers roughly $18 million a year and poses a threat to public safety when inmates return more dangerous after mixing with populations in other states. The CCA contract will be terminated if Peter is elected.

          Many of the staff-related costs in DOC are due to high turnover – mostly as a result of the high number of temporary workers who are employed without benefits. Moving to a single-payer system would certainly alleviate this problem, but Peter also believes DOC should not hire temps unless absolutely necessary to fill in for permanent employees.

          Currently private contractors provide both the health and mental health services in DOC. While many good people are employed in these positions, most facilities don’t offer 24-hour mental health care and DOC workers are often put in a position where they’re expected to do the work of mental health professionals without the proper training. Peter thinks inmates with should have easier access to Vermont State Hospital and that state workers should provide the treatment in correctional facilities. This would reduce recidivism by moving from a culture of stabilization to a culture of treatment.

         Correctional officers who apply for positions in the community are often not considered due to not meeting the educational requirements. Peter knows that on-the-ground experience is vital for a DOC employee in the field and will consider giving existing facility workers preference when recruiting for community positions.


By increasing opportunities for staff, decreasing turnover and cutting contracts, Peter is confident he can save dollars and improve results. While his opponent accepts contributions from Corrections Corporation of America, Peter has consistently said he wants to hear from front-line workers, not corporate lobbyists. I’d encourage you to reply to this email with suggestions for making smart investments in DOC without cutting workers or negatively impacting the services you provide. We’ll make sure Peter hears you!


Bob Hooper

VSEA President