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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In a bizarre moment Tuesday that seemed straight out of reality television, President Trump dropped a bombshell on a grieving British family — surprising them with the news that the woman who had killed their son in a car crash was in a nearby room and then urging the family to meet with her.

You hear it said about sexual harassers all the time: "Guys like that will never change."

That may be true for those who are out-and-out psychopaths and those with other serious disorders, but experts say most sexual harassers are not in that bucket.

"They're apples and oranges," says forensic psychiatrist and Temple University School of Medicine professor of psychiatry Barbara Ziv, who has spent decades studying both victims and perpetrators of sexual misconduct. Most are "opportunistic offenders" or self-delusional, she says, but they're not beyond help.

Three people stand behind a podium with an ACLU banner on it.
Peter Hirschfeld / VPR

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union unveiled a legislative agenda Tuesday it says elected officials could use to cut the state’s prison population in half. Items on the agenda include the elimination of cash bail and the decriminalization of many drug crimes.

A Rutland City Police cruiser parked outside the Rutland City Police building
Nina Keck / VPR

Updated 6:25 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8

Vermont State Police are investigating two separate, but what they believe are connected, incidents in Rutland and Salisbury. In Rutland, local police shot and killed the 33-year-old son of the city's former mayor early Tuesday morning. The same day, police discovered a man's body on Lake Dunmore Road.

As Massachusetts considers changing the way it handles young criminal offenders, it is looking at what’s happening north — specifically, to Vermont.

Vermont is the first state to raise the age above 18 for when someone criminally charged goes to juvenile court, expanding what it’s doing in hundreds of lower level criminal cases now.

House Democrats are set to launch a new phase of their impeachment inquiry on Thursday when former Ambassador Kurt Volker, until recently a top State Department representative to Ukraine, is scheduled to meet with investigators.

Then, on Friday, the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, is due on the Hill.

More witnesses are expected next week, all for depositions behind closed doors with members of Congress and their staff.

 Josh Lavenets inside the state prison for men in Berlin, NH
Emily Corwin / VPR

Earlier this year, New Hampshire Public Radio released Supervision, a podcast that tries to understand the difficulties of life after prison by following a single parolee on his first few months out. Vermont Edition yesterday aired the first two parts of the podcast, where we met parolee Josh Lavenets and followed him on his first day out of prison and through an unexpected medical emergency. Today, the final two episodes of the podcast.

NHPR's "Supervision": Life After Prison
Sara Plourde / NHPR

In Vermont and across the country, roughly half of the inmates who get out of prison end up back behind bars within three years. And often it's for violating conditions of their parole. Earlier this year, New Hampshire Public Radio released a podcast called Supervision. The four-part podcast tries to understand the difficulties of life after prison by following a single parolee on his first few months out.

Today, we'll hear the first two parts of Supervision on Vermont Edition; tomorrow, the final two.

Updated 3:45 E.T. Sunday

The rapidly unfolding Ukraine scandal has kicked impeachment investigations into high gear, with Democratic leaders in Congress now saying it will take just a number of weeks to consolidate findings from multiple House committees.

"This is not going to require months and months and months of hearings," says Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who spoke with NPR on Saturday.

A tumultuous week in Washington has set the stage for an intense new congressional investigation into President Trump — and what could prove to be a historic clash between the White House and Congress.

The outlines are now clear about conduct that no one, including Trump, disputes: The president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the family of Vice President Joe Biden, a potential political rival in the 2020 presidential election.

Updated at 12:08 p.m. ET

The nation's top spy told lawmakers on Thursday that he supports the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Ukraine affair but said he struggled to deal with how to handle the case inside the Trump administration.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told the House intelligence committee in an open hearing that he believed the whistleblower and the spy world's inspector general had acted in good faith and that he has tried to handle a unique situation as best he could.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. ET

President Trump and his opponents jockeyed for advantage on Monday as Washington girded for a drawn-out conflict over the White House and Ukraine.

Trump and his aides sought to throw the spotlight on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who they said might be connected with what they called "corruption" in Ukraine — although Biden's camp insists those allegations have been debunked.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

The family that owns Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, has agreed to give up "the entire value" of the privately owned firm to settle claims that Purdue played a central role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic.

That's according to a spokesperson for the firm, who detailed the Sackler family's offer in an email sent to NPR on Monday.

"Additionally, the Sacklers have offered $3 billion in cash as part of the global resolution," wrote Josephine Martin, Purdue Pharma's head of corporate affairs and communications.

Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility
Rogelio V. Solis / AP

A Vermont inmate was found dead just after 1 a.m. Monday at a private prison in Mississippi. Vermont Commissioner of Corrections Mike Touchette said 39-year-old Christopher Chase apparently died by suicide.

Updated at 3:22 p.m. ET

The death toll from a mass shooting carried out by a gunman in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa has risen from five to seven, and 22 others remain injured, officials said on Sunday.

Authorities said a man armed with an "AR-type weapon" was killed by police just moments before heading toward a crowded movie theater, preventing what investigators said could have been an even deadlier rampage.

Ford's Crown Victoria Interceptor was the car of choice for Vermont State Police and many local and state law enforcement agencies. VSP took their last Crown Vic out of service in November and will auction off the last one to come off the road this month.
Vermont State Police

Vermont is now among 34 states that may at some point see a Blue Alert. Similar to the Amber Alert network which rapidly publicizes a missing children, Blue Alerts are triggered when a broad group of law enforcement officers — from police to judges to Corrections officers — are injured or killed in the line of duty, and a suspect remains at large or a danger to the community.

Heading into the Labor Day weekend, the Vermont State Police hope that everyone exhibits safe driving habits.
Robin Pierre / Unsplash

There have been 20 traffic crash fatalities in Vermont so far this year. That's down from 41 at this point last year. While highway safety officials are hopeful that the number remains low this year, they have other important concerns about our driving habits. We'll talk about those on Vermont Edition.

Updated Sept. 6 at 2:40 p.m. ET

Ulrik Binzer used to rent out his house north of San Francisco on Airbnb. It was enough money to pay for his family to fly to Denmark to visit relatives. But then his town suddenly banned short-term rentals.

Binzer says there was no debate — it was just an agenda item. "No one knew about it," he says.

It left him wondering: What's going on here?

That's how Binzer became a new sort of sheriff for the digital age.

A closeup on the trigger of a handgun
Althom / iStock

Speaking in New Hampshire earlier this month, at his first rally after deadly mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, President Donald Trump pointed to mental illness as the source of the violence.

Ridin' High Skate Shop in Burlington.
Henry Epp / VPR

The owners of a well-known skate board shop in Burlington were arraigned in federal court Thursday for allegedly selling marijuana at the store.