Bellows Falls does not need Liberty Mill

Editor of the Reformer:

Sheriff Keith Clark has proposed that what he calls the "Liberty Mill Justice Center" be constructed in the village of Bellows Falls. In addition to other uses, the LMJC will house up to 80 federal detainees in secure cells, an additional 40 state detainees and as many as 35 others in a transitional housing unit. An effort would be made to rehabilitate the offenders in the last two groups while they are residing in the LMJC.

Sheriff Clark has said that these 75 men and women will be lower risk offenders. He has also said that some of the 75 might not be allowed to leave the facility, some would only go out with a chaperone, and some would be monitored with ankle bracelets. Most of them would be using Bellows Falls as the training ground for their re-entry into community life.

The sheriff has repeatedly admitted that there are presently 93 people under Department of Corrections supervision — people who are on probation, parole, or furlough — living in this village of approximately 3,000; in other words about 30 out of every thousand residents. That number becomes surprising when you look at the proportions in other places. Using the March 2015 DOC "Town By Status" count as a reference, nearby Springfield has only 13 out of a thousand, Brattleboro 16, Rutland City 24, and St. Johnsbury 22. Burlington has even fewer: 12.

What all this adds up to is that Bellows Falls is no place for a facility like the Liberty Mill Justice Center. Thanks to a dedicated police force and a tight-knit community it is now able to feel like a safe and happy place in which to live. But this village needs no more involvement with the Department of Corrections' work than it already has.


Suzanne Groenewold, Deborah Wright and Polly Thompson, Bellows Falls, Feb. 2