Home Commentary Opinion Letters: 3.5.15

Letters: 3.5.15




Bring Our Prisoners Home


Since 2004, when Vermont contracted with the Corrections Corporation of America to house 700 prisoners out of state, hundreds of Vermont inmates have been shipped to Kentucky prisons, where conditions are often substandard, and inmates report neglect or abuse at the hands of guards.

In Kentucky, inmates who’d had weekly, face-to-face time with family when close to home go years without a visit.

At $2.50 for 15 minutes phone-time, calls home to Vermont are too expensive for inmates and families, leaving many prisoners effectively isolated. Prisoners from Vermont requesting the installation of a “video visit system” to allow virtual visits with family have been told prison staff are not interested. Vermont newspapers typically reach Kentucky facilities one to two weeks late, making it nearly impossible for parole-eligible inmates to access housing opportunities close to home, when secured housing is a requirement for release.

In Vermont, prisons offer extensive vocational classes, and allow inmates the chance to finish high school. No such opportunities exist in Kentucky prisons. For these reasons and more, it’s time to stop warehousing our inmates out-of-state. Let’s bring them home now.

For more information, visit vermontersforcriminaljusticereform.org

Neville Berle, Montpelier


Good Beginnings Offers Help


Imagine a place where families thrive, feel supported and have the tools they need to take care of themselves and raise their children with confidence. For more than 23 years, Good Beginnings of Central Vermont has been creating a caring community in which to help families with newborn and adoptive infants. Their primary commitment is to provide families with support, mentorship, education and a connection to community resources.

Good Beginnings’ main initiatives are early bonding, resource connection, early literacy and fatherhood involvement. In addition to weekly home visiting to provide role-modeling, encouragement and intervention, Good Beginnings also provides free parenting education workshops and free events for fathers or male role models and their children throughout the year. In fact, all Good Beginnings services are free to families, regardless of income or circumstance. The Nest, a community resource center, is open weekly at the Good Beginnings meeting space where families can connect with one another, access free internet, and connect with support groups such as Babywearers of Central Vermont.  Second Thursdays, La Leche League, third  Thursdays, and MultipliciTEA, a peer support group for parents of multiples fourth Thursdays. Good Beginnings volunteers also provide essential in-arms comfort and cuddling for newborns born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome at Central Vermont Medical Center through the In Loving Arms initiative.

Good Beginnings also offers free and reduced-cost infant carriers, emergency funding for crises and free gently used baby items and goods. For more information, visit www.goodbeginningscentralvt.org or find them on Facebook.

Billi Quittner, board member, Good Beginnings Central Vermont


Brooks an Honorable Civil Servant


I was shocked and outraged when I learned of the results of a legislative election that removed Francis Brooks, sergeant-at-arms. As I gleaned from all press reports, this vote to remove Mr. Brooks from his office was due to the protests that occurred last month at Gov. Shumlin’s inaugural speech at the State House. It saddens me greatly to realize that even here in our state of Vermont, people’s constitutional rights are being compromised. The protesters had every right to express their opinions and concerns about our right to health care. Gov. Shumlin ran his initial campaign on a universal health care plan for Vermont. He was elected on that initiative.  Doesn’t it seem strange that he waited until after this last election to inform the citizens of Vermont that he was abandoning his plan. People are justifiably angry and have expressed that anger with their peaceful and legal protests. Because of this, Francis Brooks, a dedicated, civic-minded, honorable man, who has given so much of his life to this community and to this state, has lost his job as sergeant-at-arms. This is how you reward him for so many years of loyal service? It is a sad day for Mr. Brooks, for the state of Vermont and for our democracy.

Carol Kendrick, Montpelier


Supporting Tax on Sugary Drinks


I have been following the issue of a sugar tax proposal in the Legislature and writing today to show my support. I listened to Vermont Edition on Vermont Public Radio last week (Feb. 13) and heard both sides of the debate, and I have reviewed Alliance for Healthier Vermont’s website.

I agree we should pass the two-cent-per-ounce excise tax on sugary drinks because those drinks contain way more sugar than suggested for any individual and taxing individuals for consuming unhealthy products has proven to increase awareness and decrease excess consumption. When I see adults and children consuming sugary drinks, I wonder if they know just how much sugar they contain. Sugary drinks are so inexpensive and highly advertised, which makes me wonder if the companies who profit off sugary drinks have health in mind at all when they promote bigger and bigger serving sizes to consumers. A tax would fund preventative education and hopefully encourage people to think twice about having another soda or buying their kids excessively sugary drinks. Grocers might arrange their merchandise to direct customer attention toward less sugary options, like milk, water or real juice.    

Sugary drinks provide no nutritional value either, and I think it’s time more awareness is brought to the marketplace about this.  This tax would do that. I hope that legislators will listen to all those in favor and pass this tax and help make Vermont a healthier place.

Krista Harness Gardner, Montpelier


Tax Would Promote Health


I strongly support the proposed two-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks as a means to help prevent diseases of obesity, especially in children.

As a mother, I strive to provide healthy meals and snacks for my children and to teach them the importance of taking care of their health by consuming nutritious foods. It is heartbreaking when we see some of their peers suffering from the physical and emotional burdens of obesity, knowing they will likely struggle with these issues for the rest of their lives. Despite sugary drinks containing no nutritional benefits whatsoever, they are the number one source of calories for American children. Adding a tax to these beverages would help to level the playing field for healthier drink options and the money raised could support programs aimed at reducing the obesity epidemic. Additionally, much like tobacco, adding a tax to sugary drinks would send a message that these products are a health risk, helping people make more informed choices about the beverages they purchase. With research and trends predicting this generation of children will live shorter life spans than their parents, it’s clear that we need to take action.

Our children deserve the chance at a healthy start to life. I urge everyone to do their homework on the risks associated with consuming sugary beverages, and to reach out to their legislators in support of this tax!

Audree Frey, Underhill