Peter Shumlin this morning declared “War on Recidivism” in a well-attended press conference in his governor’s ceremonial office.
In short, Shumlin says the state is sending a lot of people to jail that don’t need to be there. At $47,000 a year to house a single prisoner, he says, the state just can’t afford it.
The governor was short on specifics this morning, but the details will get ironed out, he says, when all three branches of government fashion plans for things like job training, internships, substance-abuse treatment and other services intended to get low-level offenders on the right track.
He’s got some ideas already though. During a recent trip to a correctional facility in Windsor, Shumlin says, he ran into a guy doing time for multiple DUIs. The offender happened to have been on a construction crew that did work on one of Shumlin’s Putney properties.
“This guy I know is an extraordinarily capable person, when he’s sober,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin suggests the state find a way “to put this guy to work.” Perhaps he and other inmates could raise beef cattle in the unused fields nearby. And grow some vegetables, and give them to food shelves. Better yet, he says, get some taps and hose and set them loose on the fallow sugar bush.
“Let’s make maple syrup,” Shumlin says.
Shumlin has already devoted an additional $300,000 in his fiscal-year 2012 budget proposal to expand methadone treatment for opiate addicts.
His budget plan assumes $1.6 million in savings by cycling 60 misdemeanants out of prison beds next year. The Senate Judiciary Committee is now working on language that would allow the commissioner of corrections to bypass court-ordered prison sentences (you can read more about the plan in today’s versions of the Argus and Herald).