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Lawyers: Out-of-state prison limiting inmate communication

Written by The Associated Press | Nov 1, 2017 4:35 PM
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(Montpelier, Vt.) -- Vermont's chief public defender says the housing of some of the state's inmates in a Pennsylvania prison is making it "much more difficult" for his lawyers to communicate with their clients.

Defender General Matthew Valerio told Vermont Public Radio that the transfer to the Camp Hill prison over the summer was causing more problems than previous out-of-state incarceration agreements.

"So far, this Pennsylvania placement has been far and away the most difficult to get access to the inmates to find out what's going on down there and address whatever needs they might have, or even just to address their ongoing legal issues that they have in Vermont," Valerio said.

Valerio said the problems have persisted despite efforts to reach an agreement with Pennsylvania prison officials.

In a statement, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections said staff at the Camp Hill prison had given the defender general's staff greater access to prison staff as part of its visitor policy, including "the exclusive use of attorney/client visiting rooms for its pre-scheduled visits."

It said the defender general had not communicated any concerns with the process and that representatives of the defender general's office had only visited the prison twice since August.

"The Vermont inmates are now being housed in one of the largest state prisons in Pennsylvania which is responsible for the care and custody of more than 3,000 inmates," the statement said. "It is imperative that all inmate visitors follow the established policy in order to ensure that each inmate in the prison is afforded fair and consistent visitation privileges."

For years Vermont has sent hundreds of prison inmates to out-of-state prisons to alleviate overcrowding in the state's facilities. This summer about 280 inmates were transferred to Pennsylvania from a private prison in Michigan.

Vermont's Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Mike Touchette says he's aware of Valerio's complaints.
Touchette says some privately run out-of-state prisons previously accommodated the defender general's request for a confidential phone line and eased rules on attorney visits.

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Information from: WVPS-FM, http://www.vpr.net

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