December 6th, 2019
Karen Tronsgard-Scott, Executive Director
Earlier this week, Seven Days published a deeply disturbing report about allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct at Vermont’s only women’s correctional facility, the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. The Vermont Network has operated a program inside Vermont’s Women’s Prison for decades which works with and supports victims of domestic and sexual violence who are incarcerated. The vast majority of women who are incarcerated in Vermont have been victims of domestic or sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes and often experience substance misuse disorder and poverty. These three elements mean that incarcerated women are highly vulnerable to sexual misconduct and abuse while incarcerated. The power differential inherent in the relationship between incarcerated women and correctional officers further increases their vulnerability and makes it substantially more difficult for them to report abuse without fear of reprisal.
The allegations reported yesterday are deeply disturbing and antithetical to our values as a state. As Vermonters, we have a responsibility to respond swiftly and ensure that any future abuses are prevented. Sexual abuse and exploitation of inmates in Vermont represents a failure of our state to adequately protect those most vulnerable.
The Vermont Network believes survivors and strongly urges the State of Vermont to conduct an independent investigation of these abuses. In addition, we call on the administration and lawmakers to work with advocates and community providers to accelerate and resource current efforts to support alternatives to incarceration, re-entry supports such as affordable and safe housing, and to ensure a more humane, trauma-informed and gender-responsive correctional setting for Vermont’s incarcerated women.
The Vermont Network’s purpose is to build a world free of oppression where actions, beliefs and systems support all people to thrive. The 15 community-based member organizations of the Vermont Network provide a 24-hour hotline, support and advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence in every community in Vermont. More information on the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is available at www.vtnetwork.org.