- Organizational and Large-Scale Change — Vermont Engages in Cost-Benefit Analysis of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Practices: The Vermont legislature charged the Criminal Consensus Cost-Benefit Working Group with developing a criminal and juvenile justice cost-benefit model for the state. The goal of the model is to provide policymakers with information needed to weigh the costs and benefits of various programs and to evaluate those policies with the greatest net social benefit. Specifically, the model will be used to estimate costs related to arrest, prosecution, defense, adjudication, and corrections of adults and youth, as well as the cost of victimization. A report submitted by the working group in April 2014 recommends that the state “reinvigorate” its commitment to evidence-based programs, study staff costs further (as having the greatest potential to generate cost savings), and provide the results of their study to criminal and juvenile justice agencies in the state, along with technical assistance for those agencies to evaluate opportunity costs. S.B. 1/Act No. 0061, signed into law and effective June 3, 2013.
- Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Vermont Allows Prostitution Convictions Resulting from Human Trafficking to Be Expunged: Vermont now allows a person to file a motion to vacate a prostitution conviction if the conviction was the result of the person having been a victim of human trafficking. If the motion is granted, the person’s record for the offense must be expunged. S.B. 122/Act No. 2012-94, signed into law and effective May 1, 2012.
- Youth in the Adult System — Vermont Revises Delinquency Proceedings to Expand Options for Youth: Vermont revised its laws governing delinquency proceedings in order to create more consistency in proceedings and to expand options available through the family court to help reduce the number of older youth who are processed in adult court. The legislation extends the maximum age that a youth can remain under juvenile probation to 18-and-a-half. Additionally, the law mandates that all youth referred to the delinquency docket have the opportunity to participate in a standard screening/assessment. The identified risk level must then be provided to the prosecutor, who may use it to help decide whether to send the youth to court or to a diversion program. Lastly, the law allows the court to refer youth who plead guilty to delinquency offenses directly to a community-based alternative—bypassing several hearings and probation—where victim restoration and the youth’s skills and needs are addressed. H.B. 751/Act No. 159, signed into law May 17, 2012; effective July 1, 2012.
- Conditions of Confinement — State Improves Conditions at Juvenile Detention Center: Between 2007 and 2011, Vermont’s Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center’s Detention Unit improved its conditions of confinement and services to youth, including provision of adequate heat and air conditioning, cleaning services, special education services, mental health treatment, and case management coordination, as well as decreases in the use of seclusion and restraint. Additionally, Woodside currently shares copies of all use-of-force reports with Vermont’s federally authorized Protection and Advocacy organization. The facility implemented the changes after five years of advocacy efforts to improve conditions at the facility.
- Youth in the Adult System — Youth Convicted as Adults Before Age 21 May Have Records Sealed: Vermont law now allows youth convicted as adults for crimes committed before they were 21 years old to petition to have their records sealed. Previously, the law allowed such record-sealing only if the conviction occurred for offenses committed prior to age 18. The law additionally closes a loophole that forced a youth to be charged in adult court if 18 or older, despite having committed the offense prior to age 18. Such cases must now be initially filed in juvenile court. S.B. 58/Act 16, signed into law and effective May 9, 2011.
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse — Legislature Increases Access to Mental Health Services for Detained Youth: Through the 2010 Budget Adjustment Act, the Vermont Department for Children and Families “repurposed” Vermont’s one juvenile detention facility to become a “residential treatment facility that provides in-patient psychiatric, mental health, and substance abuse services in a secure setting for adolescents who have been adjudicated or charged with a delinquency or criminal act.” By making this change, the department is now able to draw down Medicaid funding for youth placed at the facility; such funding is usually prohibited for incarcerated youth. Now, all youth placed at the detention center are screened for treatment needs shortly after admission and may gain access to services even if they do not qualify for longer-term placement there. The legislation explicitly states that all youth placed in the facility must maintain their due process rights, despite the change in the facility’s purpose. H.B. 65/Act 3, signed into law and effective February 17, 2011.