Corrections officials search for work camp site

08/03/07 12:00PM By Ross Sneyd

(Host) Vermont corrections officials are searching for a town that's willing to let the state build a new prison work camp.

But the state also is considering whether to convert an existing prison into a work camp, instead of building an entirely new one.

Corrections Commissioner Rob Hofmann says four towns have expressed interest in hosting a new camp, but none has committed to it.

And Hofmann says he doesn't intend to offer communities big state incentives to persuade them to welcome a work camp.

(Hofmann) "I'm resistant to set a precedent when we're putting up a camp that's got so many positive attributes. We're not talking about a maximum security, we're not talking about a medium security."

(Host) Representatives of a number of communities have visited the existing prison work camp in St. Johnsbury as they consider whether to invite the Corrections Department to their towns.

Inmates at the St. Johnsbury camp have done a number of public works projects around the Northeast Kingdom as part of their sentences.

Jim Hutchinson is chairman of the Randolph Select Board. He says townspeople considered making a bid for a work camp, but concluded there weren't enough benefits.

(Hutchinson) "In the end, our decision really wasn't based on opposition or favor. Our decision in the end was based simply on we felt that the potential benefits weren't of the magnitude that we wanted to proceed with it."

(Host) Hofmann says it's possible that the state won't need to find a town that's willing to host a work camp.

The Legislature has asked the Corrections Department to cut $4 million from the growth of its budget.

(Hoffman) "They've proposed closing some facilities. How that plays is going to be key and there may be a facility that otherwise would need to close, but for adding a work camp might be viable."

(Host) In the meantime, the state continues to work with communities about a new site because Hofmann says work camps are so effective in dealing with nonviolent offenders.

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