Letter: Open letter to Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard
On the eve of Vermont inmates' departure from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, I urge you to reflect upon your profoundly negative, harmful experience here, accept your failure of leadership and oversight in this matter, and tender your resignation to the governor this fall.
From the start, VTDOC failed to fully vet this troubled contract that advocates and journalist decried. You and your department have failed to keep us safe. Your leadership of the department and its out-of-state placement of nearly 230 Vermont inmates has been negligent. The incompetence and lack of empathy shown is inexcusable. At this point, solely moving us to another out-of-state prison is not enough to remedy the damage that has been done.
How many times, since June of 2017, have we heard "there's nothing Vermont can do. You're PA inmates now," from VTDOC officials? It's true that as part of this horrendous agreement Vermont willingly ceded its power to a corrupt system that cares nothing for us; however, ultimately, we're confined to your care and custody, the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Corrections. No compact can relieve you of that burden. We may be located out of Vermont, but we're still Vermont inmates — brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers of Vermont residents. Your responsibility.
You've admitted to the media you could see this wasn't going to work out shortly after we arrived at Camp Hill; yet it was PADOC, not your department, that issued the contract termination notice in April, 2018 — two months after Senator Sears and other legislators asked Governor Scott's administration to remove us from here. You may say, "We're moving you soon. Isn't it better late than never?" Unfortunately for many it's already too late.
It's too late for those who have died: Roger Brown, Tim Adams, Herbert Rogers and Michael Senna. It's too late for Kyle Doyle, who was physically assaulted by staff and countless others who've been verbally harassed, demeaned and threatened. It's too late for those whose personal property was ransacked, stolen and trashed; it's too late for those forced to breathe 14 months of cancer-causing second-hand smoke. It's too late for those whose Vermont Court orders and stipulation agreements have been blatantly ignored. It's too late for those whose few remaining rights have been trampled on by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania again and again.
I believe Vermont values integrity, transparency, empathy, humane treatment and rehabilitation. This contract was contrary to those values. It fostered anger, bitterness and resentment. What a sad reflection of our criminal justice system this has become and the general public doesn't know the half of it.
Even though our relocation is finally on the horizon, it's not too late for you to publicly accept full responsibility for this disaster, apologize contritely to inmates and their families, and voluntarily offer your resignation to Governor Scott.
Shaun C. Bryer
Camp Hill, Pa.
Morrisville, Vt., Sept. 4
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