MONTPELIER -- The Vermont Department of Corrections wants to hear from the public about its operations, ranging from transitional housing in Vermont’s communities to the operation of its prisons.
The first of four quarterly meetings planned during the next year is set for Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. at Vermont Interactive Television locations around the state.
"We hope citizens, other stakeholders and community partners will take part in these meetings and provide the department with constructive and open input," Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito said in a statement announcing the sessions.
The announcement followed a decision in July to suspend a previous effort to encourage public involvement in Vermont’s prison system. Pallito said then that he decided that meetings of the Citizens Advisory Group had become a waste of his department’s time and resources.
He said he planned to assess the group’s role by fall and either reconstitute it or develop another approach. Pallito did not immediately return a message left at his office on Friday. Monica Weeber, the department’s planning director, confirmed that the newly scheduled meetings were what the department had developed to replace the Citizens Advisory Group.
"I think we had a couple of ideas that were discussed, and this idea seemed to be the one that came out on top in terms of a good way to engage anybody interested in the department, to ask questions and make comments," Weeber said in an interview.
Weeber said she did not expect department officials to respond immediately to the public’s comments or questions at Tuesday’s meeting. Rather, she said officials would do so on the department’s website or at the second meeting, set for February. Sessions also are scheduled for May and August, she said.
The meetings will be transmitted on Vermont Interactive Television, a video link system that allows people to go to VIT offices around the state and participate remotely in a public session to be hosted by officials at DOC headquarters in Williston. In addition to Williston, participating VIT studios are in Bennington, Brattleboro, Rutland, Springfield, Montpelier, Middlebury, Newport, St. Albans and Lyndonville.