Use of Bail Comes Under Scrutiny in Vermont

Around a quarter of Vermont’s 1600 in state prisoners are those who are awaiting trial. These are individuals in prison because they haven’t been able to make enough money to post their bail or because their judge has ordered them to be held without any bail. However, just like those who are already convicted, they cost around $56,940 a year to keep incarcerated. Lawmakers in the state of Vermont have been searching for a way to reduce the amount of people who are detained in prison in order to help cut the spending for the state and make more room for Vermont prisoners that are being held out of state.

Chief Administrative Judge Amy Davenport has been emailing Vermont criminal court judges asking them to consider the detention data when they start reviewing the cases of people who have been charged with non-violent crimes. The information that has been created by the Department of Corrections has suggested that the number of detainees which stood at 411 as of Friday has been fluctuating between 325 and 425 since years ago in 2002. The large gap in this amount was recently a result of Operation County Strike which was a joint law enforcement effort that led to the arrest of 50 people who were suspected of drug crimes within a nearby county.

A large backlog of criminal cases and a relatively high amount of felony charges has also led to the rise in the detention rate. In order to drive the numbers down, Davenport has mentioned that there should be a standardized, enhanced, pretrial screening process for defendants. There should also be a reconfiguration of home detention. Although the Department of Corrections has introduced GPS monitored home dentition, it has been said that the amount of people on a home detention program continues to be under a handful. The greatest issue has been that there hasn’t been enough staff present to be able to monitor the GPS coordinates throughout the day and night.

Bondsmen have claimed that they feel considered that too much pressure to cut costs is going to make the courts handle crime far more softly than they should. However, they have also noticed that the industry has taken a hit based on the situation with defendants. In the first quarter of 2011, bail was posted for over 70 defendants, but as 2013 has progressed, there has only been bail posted for around 41 defendants instead. Ultimately, the greatest concern is that while the state is trying to cut costs to the amount of money it spends to care for detainees and open up the amount of beds that may be available for those who need to be incarcerated, it may lead to the courts being far more lenient than they need to be regarding certain crimes. Although most feel that this would only be offered towards those who have been involved in non-violent crimes, it still leaves room for valid concerns.

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