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Lockdown Over for Vt. Prisoners

Montpelier — A longer-than-usual lockdown ended earlier this month at a Kentucky prison housing inmates from Vermont and officials said there are plans to change how the facility monitors inmates there.

More than 200 inmates at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville were confined to their cells for a week and allowed out only when escorted by staff after a lockdown initiated Jan. 15 because of a series of assaults. The modified lockdown lasted until Feb. 4, with prisoners allowed to access day rooms for no more than four hours daily.

Most prison lockdowns last about three days, Vermont Defender General Matthew Valerio said in January. The full lockdown process in Kentucky lasted almost three weeks.

Vermont houses prisoners in two facilities out-of-state due to space issues and money woes. About 10 inmates from Vermont were transfered to facilities in Arizona or Vermont during the lockdown, said Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito.

Pallito said Corrections Corporation of America, the private contractor that operates the Kentucky prison, has committed to more staffing and more direct supervision within the units at the facility in coming weeks. Pallito said a security specialist assessed the lockdown for the department, and the department will continue to monitor the situation.

“Any private company is going to be apt to try and cut expenses,” Pallito said of CCA. “It’s our job to monitor that they don’t cut too far.”

Vermont’s current contract with CCA will expire in 2015.

Pallito said that CCA utilizes a centralized control room method of supervision, rather than having correctional officers spread throughout the units themselves as there are in Vermont and which Pallito said was ideal.

“Safety and security is always our top priority,” Owens said in an email Monday. “The facility, working closely with Vermont officials, has implemented direct supervision to (complement) existing management and security measures at the facility.”

In response to the latest lockdown, CCA spokesman Steven Owens said in January the facility is “appropriately staffed” and “meets or exceeds industry standards for training.”

Meg McCarthy, of Brattleboro, works with Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform and her husband has been an inmate at the Kentucky prison for more than a year. McCarthy said that he lives in a part of the facility which wasn’t under lockdown, but that the lockdown has changed his routine.

“They’re increasing security presence inside the dorms. He thinks that’s a good thing,” McCarthy said, adding that getting outside or going to different areas is harder because there are fewer officers available to take inmates.

Owens said in an email Monday that the amount of recreation time inmates get remains the same, but that there may some changes in the order of which units are taken outside.

In 2004, Vermont prisoners were involved in a riot at a CCA facility in Kentucky. The prison warden was later removed, and Kentucky recommended a $10,000 fine against CCA for not properly training and equipping prison staff to respond to such incidents.

The former warden of the facility, David Frye, resigned on Jan. 26 and has been replaced by Dan Akers, who previously served as assistant warden, according to Owens.