PUTTING TIME TO GOOD USE
When society consigns criminal offenders to jail, the clear purpose is to remove them from the community. Whether it's to ensure public safety, provide criminals an opportunity for "penitence" and reform, or simply to punish them is a perennial debate. But one thing is certain: most offenders eventually will rejoin us in society-at-large. The goal of Vermont 's offender work programs is to prepare them to earn a living when they do, and to be contributing members to our communities and economy.
Vermont's Offender Work Programs primarily consists of Vermont Correctional Industries (VCI). VCI operates independently, much like a business, out-side of the Department's General Fund appropriation. All of the state-employee staff, the inmate workers, and the costs of production are paid from the sale of goods and services. By law, VCI's customer base is limited to federal and state agencies, municipalities, and non-profit organizations. These restrictions strike a compromise between the important goals of protecting private companies from unfair competition and providing meaningful work and job training to help offenders succeed when they return to their communities.
VCI operates within two "central" facilities, which primarily house inmates whose cases have been adjudicated and who have begun serving their sentences. VCI models itself upon free-enterprise employers: inmates seeking employment must go through an application and job interview process, and the company maintains employee records so that workers are accountable for their performance and can be promoted, maintained or dismissed appropriately. On average, about 120 Vermont inmates are employed by VCI at any given time.
Who is eligible to purchase from VCI?
The labor, work product, or time of an offender may be sold, contracted, or hired out by the State only: (1) To the federal government. (2) To any state or political subdivision of a state, or to any nonprofit organization which is exempt from federal or state income taxation, ... (4) To charitable organizations where the offender work product is the handicraft of offenders and the Commissioner has approved such sales in advance.
from Statute 28 V.S.A. § 751b (d) (Added 1999, No. 148 (Adj. Sess.), § 58, eff. May 24, 2000; amended 2005, No. 103 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 5, 2006; 2009, No. 33, § 51.)