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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Employees detail shocking conditions at Newport Prison

NEWPORT — Corrections employees at the Northern State Correctional Facility (NSCF) have issued a letter to Nicholas J. Deml, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections that identifies grave concerns about the dangerous state of their facility.

They also expressed a lack of confidence in the facility’s Interim Superintendent, Lori Madden.

The letter by frontline staff, who are members of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, alerts corrections management to a “toxic environment for both incarcerated individuals and staff” at the Newport facility and identifies alarming and disturbing conditions on the ground.

Some of these concerns allege a failure to staff key safety posts, untrained staff working security positions, and an ongoing lack of responders in the event of a facility emergency.

The letter also alleges incarcerated individuals are confined to their living unit without recreation due to severe understaffing.

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“Again and again, frontline staff have raised an alarm about the dire state of Vermont’s correctional facilities under this Administration’s management,” explains Vermont State Employees’ Association Executive Director Steve Howard. “These devoted employees are coming forward to warn the Department before tragedy occurs. Let no one say that VSEA members didn’t do their utmost to bring about desperately needed change.”

The union is calling for Madden to be temporarily relieved from duty to grant the Commissioner time to investigate the claims made by staff, without influence.

VSEA is stressing that Madden’s continued leadership of Northern State, and her presence at the facility during the investigation, would be detrimental to staff well-being and morale and to those incarcerated.

“If one of our members were accused of such serious incompetence, they would absolutely be relieved from duty while an investigation occurred,” Howard said. “For once, let this Administration lead by example.”

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