By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Vermont Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito will come to Middlebury on Monday, March 16, to hear feedback from Addison County officials and residents on the recent closing of the local Probation and Parole office on Exchange Street.
Pallito will also use the meeting — set for 1 p.m. in room A of the Frank Mahady Courthouse — to explain how the state is now delivering probation and parole services to Addison County.
The state’s recent decision to close Middlebury’s Probation and Parole office as part of a series of fiscal year 2009 budget cuts has drawn sharp criticism from Addison County prosecutors, lawmakers and human service agency heads. Opponents have argued the move will result in less oversight over more than 100 “higher risk” offenders in Addison County who were being monitored by the Middlebury VPP office. Others have argued offenders will run a greater risk of violating parole as a result of having to check in with offices in Rutland or Burlington, where the Middlebury Probation and Parole workers have been reassigned.
But corrections officials argue the new setup will adequately meet Addison County’s needs.
Jacqueline Kotkin, field services executive for the Vermont Department of Corrections, said the Burlington Probation and Parole office is now responsible for providing supervision and services to offenders from Middlebury to the northern border of Addison County. It has assigned two former Middlebury staff, and an additional probation officer to work out of the Frank Mahady Courthouse two days per week. The Rutland Probation and Parole Office is now responsible for providing supervision and services to Addison County offenders south of Middlebury. It has assigned a former Middlebury probation officer to meet with offenders in Middlebury, as well.
In addition, offenders who work in and near Burlington and Rutland will be able to meet with probation and parole staff in those offices, according to Kotkin.
Still, Addison County officials argue there will be a gap in services and are urging the state to reopen a Probation and Parole office in Middlebury. Rep. Willem Jewett, a Ripton Democrat and member of the House Judiciary Committee, has argued that the state is only saving around $15,000 by closing the Middlebury office.
Pallito disputes that figure. He added it is unlikely that the Department of Corrections will restore a full-time Probation and Parole presence in Middlebury.
“As for full-time offices in rented space — we just don’t have the resources to do that,” Pallito said.