Vermont Senate Passes Bill On Prisoner Probes Following Inmate Hanging In Newport - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
ADVERTISE          ARCHIVES          CLASSIFIEDS          CONNECT          PHOTOS          SUBMIT          SUBSCRIBE          E-EDITION
The Caledonian-Record | St. Johnsbury, VT

Auto802 Cars under $15K

home : news : regional February 5, 2016

Vermont Senate Passes Bill On Prisoner Probes Following Inmate Hanging In Newport
Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- The Vermont Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to clarify the role of the defender general in investigating problems in Vermont's prison system, following complaints the office was hampered in investigating a prison suicide last year.

The measure passed without debate on a voice vote and now goes to the state House. Passage came more than 5 months after inmate Robert Mossey, 38, of Burlington, hanged himself in a mop closet at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.

Complaints that the prisoners' rights division of the defender general's office was hampered in its investigation of Mossey's death were first aired at a meeting of the Legislature's Joint Corrections Oversight Committee in November.

In an interview this week, Defender General Matt Valerio said he had a heated meeting with a lawyer for the Department of Human Resources and other officials last year over a trend he was seeing in which his office's investigations were being hampered by that department. Valerio said he could not recall if the meeting came before or after Mossey's death.

Mossey had been serving time for a probation violation following earlier convictions for property crimes to support a drug habit, his father has said.

Sen. Richard Sears, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the corrections oversight panel, said in an interview that the prisoners' rights office needs unfettered access to Corrections Department records and the ability to interview inmates in its investigations.

"This bill deals with the right of the prisoners' rights office of the defender general to be able to access records and testimony from various offenders. Because in reality the defender general is the law service for all persons who have been placed in corrections custody," the Bennington County Democrat said.

Valerio said state law already gave his office sufficient authority; he said he hoped the bill would clarify that.

The state created three new investigator positions focused on prisons after a spate of seven suicides about a decade ago. Just before he left office in 2010, Gov. James Douglas shifted those investigators to the Department of Human Resources to investigate allegations of employee misconduct across state government, Sears said.

Human Resources Commissioner Kate Duffy said the positions recently had been shifted back to focus on prisons, but that her office was adding positions to make up for the shift.

The human resources investigators act on behalf of the state, the defender general's investigators operate on behalf of the prisoners.

Duffy said the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin had no objection to the defender general having robust investigative powers. She said her only concern was "making sure law enforcement has the first crack at people, and that anything the defender general does doesn't interfere with a criminal investigation. But that's in the bill now, so we're good."

Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

Subscription Login

All Around Power

Wells River Chevy
L&T Auto


© The Caledonian-Record News 2014-2015

The Caledonian-Record, 190 Federal St., P.O. Box 8, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819 - 802-748-8121

Terms and Conditions


Privacy Policy


Email Headlines


Contact Us

New & Used Cars for Sale in Vermont:
Cash in on Vermont & New Hampshire's Best Deals at Kingdom Deals