Criminal Justice & Public Safety

The home for VPR's coverage of criminal justice and public safety issues across the state.

The Criminal Justice & Public Safety Team

Follow VPR reporters Liam Elder-Connors and Emily Corwin on Twitter for the latest on issues of criminal justice and public safety across the state. 

Explore our coverage by topic or chronologically by scrolling through the list below
Opioid Addiction | Guns | Marijuana | EB-5 | Vermont Supreme Court | Vermont Department Of Corrections

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Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo, left, and Deputy Chief of Operations Jon Murad speak at a press conference Wednesday in Burlington.
Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

The Burlington City Council voted last week to create a special committee examining law enforcement policy following several incidents in which officers allegedly used excessive force.

A police car flashes its blue lights.
Angela Evancie / VPR File

Police in Vermont’s largest city face scrutiny following several incidents in which officers allegedly used excessive force.

First, there were questions about a case in which a man died a few days after getting into a fight with a Burlington cop. Then there were two men — both of whom were black — who filed federal lawsuits following their encounters with the department, which were caught on tape. City leaders and residents have since called for reform, including some activists who are taking oversight into their own hands.

The group walked through gleaming hallways and landscaped grounds. They walked into a large gymnasium, and the guests said they were impressed.

“In Croatia, we do not have such brand new institutions,” said Lana Peto Kujundžić, a juvenile judge in Croatia. “They are all old and they do not have so many spaces.”

Kujundžić was among four visitors from Europe recently touring a Massachusetts Department of Youth Services — or DYS — facility in Middleton. The three-year-old space accommodates up to 45 criminal offenders in their early 20s.

A man looks out a window.
Emily Corwin / NHPR

"I want to know what it's really like to be out of prison, but not free. To have to check in with a parole officer, regularly, for years. To start again and to try not to get sent back."

That was the goal Vermont Public Radio investigative reporter Emily Corwin set out with in her recently released podcast for New Hampshire Public RadioSupervision. What she ended up with is a five-month journey alongside one New Hampshire parolee, Josh Lavenets, told over the course of four episodes. 

The exterior of the Edward J Costello Courthouse building, facing the front doors
Emily Corwin / VPR

Following the recent dismissal of three pending cases by the Chittenden County State's Attorney, Gov. Phil Scott is asking Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan to intervene.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Courtesy of State Curator's Office

The unveiling of a State House exhibit earlier this month celebrating the history of the Abenaki people and their struggle for recognition was both symbolic and important. The exhibit isn’t large — a single glass-topped case in a corner of the downstairs lobby. But to the Abenaki leaders it's an historic milestone.

An officer wearing a body camera. Vermont State Police don't have body cameras for all its troopers, though the agency says it wants them. VSP says it still needs to figure out the funding for the program before it can get cameras.
Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Recently released body camera footage in Burlington showed police allegedly using excessive force against two black men. The videos sparked public outcry and calls for police reform.

Body cameras have been seen as a way to bring accountability and transparency to law enforcement. In Vermont, 31 agencies have body cameras, according to the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council. But the state’s largest police force, the Vermont State Police, still doesn’t outfit all their troopers with the devices.

Four years after implementing a policy to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, Connecticut has seen a reduction in hit-and-run crashes and a steep decline in the number of people found guilty of unlicensed driving.

More than 50,000 undocumented immigrants in the state have taken written exams, vision tests and road tests to obtain driver's licenses, funneling several million dollars into the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.

Steven Bourgoin sitting in court
Glenn Russell / via Associated Press, Pool, File

A jury has found Steven Bourgoin guilty of five counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of five teenagers — Mary Harris, Cyrus Zschau, Liam Hale, Janie Cozzi and Eli Brookens — in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 89 in October 2016.

Justices of the Vermont Supreme Court are interested in finding a solution to the backlog of abuse and negelct cases stemming from the state's opioid epidemic.
Adam Fagen / Flickr

Vermont's opioid epidemic has created a backlog of child abuse and neglect cases in Vermont's courts. The Vermont Judiciary formed a commission to look at how the state handles the most severe cases in the family court. Now the commission recommends diverting these cases to a separate program that concentrates on individuals who are considered high-risk and high-need.

In this Monday, Oct. 22, 2018 photo, people gather around the Ben & Jerry's "Yes on 4" truck as they learn about Amendment 4 and eat free ice cream in Miami. Amendment 4 asked voters to restore the voting rights of people with past felonies in Florida.
Wilfredo Lee / AP

At a town hall on CNN last month, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was asked about whether he thinks felons should be allowed to vote, even while incarcerated. He said yes, kicking off a round of national discussion on the topic. We're talking about how it works in Vermont, one of only two states where people convicted of felonies never lose the right to vote.

'Downstream: The Effects of Parental Incarceration' is a film that tells the struggles of Vermont families when a parent goes to jail.
Lamoille Restorative Center, Courtesy

A film about the effects of parental incarceration is making its way around the state. The movie, a project of the Lamoille Restorative Center, features young Vermonters growing up with a parent in jail.

Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux stands before stacks of cardboard boxes
Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Saturday is the semiannual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, when people are encouraged to bring their unwanted medications to "take back" locations set up by local law enforcement agencies.

Exterior of the Vermont Supreme Court.
Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

Vermont's highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether Burlington Police can charge a fee to someone who wants to look at body camera footage.

Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Colchester is the state's only locked facility for kids. A lawsuit alleges staffers used "dangerous and pain restraint" techniques at the facility.
Liam Elder-Connors / VPR

The Defender General’s Office has sued Vermont’s only juvenile detention facility, accusing staffers of using “dangerous and painful restraint” techniques and other disciplinary methods that run afoul of common standards.

Jack Sawyer sits in Rutland criminal court on Wednesday, April 25.
Robert Layman / Rutland Herald / Pool

Jack Sawyer, the Poultney teenager accused of plotting a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School, was deemed a youthful offender Friday for the offense of carrying a dangerous weapon.

Greg Tatro holds a picture of his daughter, Jenna, who died of an opioid overdose in February. In the foreground are piles of sympathy cards he and his wife have received.
Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

For six years, Greg and Dawn Tatro watched their daughter struggle with an opioid addiction. Then in February, Jenna Tatro died at age 26 in their home in Johnson. Now her parents hope to create a community-based recovery center to help others fight addiction.

After more than half a century, New Hampshire’s oldest cold case homicide has been solved. The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office announced last month that the killer of a man named Everett Delano turns out to have been a Vermonter.

We're talking about the debate over life without parole in Vermont.
powerofforever / iStock

Life in prison with no chance of parole is the harshest punishment possible in Vermont. Some see it as a necessary sentence for the worst crimes, whiles others see it as an unforgiving punishment devoid of hope for rehabilitation. We're talking about what life without parole means for public safety, rehabilitation and deterrence, and for the cost of the justice system in Vermont.

Stevanovicigor / iStock

Over the course of what’s now adding up to nearly a lifetime in Vermont, I’ve enjoyed being active in various cultural, civic and business organizations, including the ACLU. And at times, I’ve been called upon to advise state leaders from college presidents to corrections officials. So it’s from this perspective that I say with considerable confidence that it’s time to close the South Burlington Women’s facility, or CRCF.