Victories: Fewer Prisoners, More Forests

In terms of incarceration rates, in the past decade Vermont went from being one of the worst states in the nation to one of the best. “We have a shortage of housing in Vermont and that affects people as they are released” from prison, Jeanette White told the Valley Post on September 21. She is a state senator for the county that's home to Brattleboro. “We are working on that.”

Of the 50 states, only Massachusetts keeps a smaller percentage of its people in prison than Vermont. New Hampshire is sixth best.

A group of lawyers in Northampton say on their web site, "Even progressive states like Vermont, with incarceration rates below the national average, continue to lock people up at more than double the rates of our closest international allies" such as the UK, France, and Canada. That web site is www.PrisonPolicy.org.

Vermont keeps some of its prisoners at a private prison in Mississippi. None of Vermont's neighboring states use private prisons.

In other news from the Valley, in Belchertown, Massachusetts on September 23, a celebration was held for 86 acres of forestland that was permanently protected from development. Belchertown borders Amherst. Activists succeeded in pressuring politicians to tax rich people and use the money to protect open space.

According to the activists' web site, "Wilderness is a vital habitat for wildlife.... Without designated wilderness, it would be virtually impossible to ensure the protection of species. Wilderness is a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced society. It provides us with places where we can seek relief from the noise, haste and crowds that too often confine us. It is a place for us to enjoy with friends and families — strengthening our relationships and building lasting memories." That web site is www.wilderness.org.

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