Posted on Feb 12, 2019
Today, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan focused on the major issue of criminal reform and victim security at our well-attended, "bring a friend" meeting.
Using the St Albans jail facility as a cogent example:
T J discussed leading the effort in the Attorney General’s Office to expand access to alternative justice programs to every county in the state. The rates of referrals to Diversion programs have doubled in the past two years. TJ wanted to summarize a new program specifically for individuals that suffer from mental health challenges or substance use disorder. TJ recognizes that collective public safety is enhanced by giving people opportunities to succeed and be productive citizens. This goal requires changing the culture of the criminal justice system. Believing in restorative justice and alternatives to incarceration as common sense alternatives to prevent the further deterioration of a person’s ability to function as a productive member of our society,

 TJ, in his first term as Attorney General championed a bail reform bill that is now law and successfully pushed to expand access to expungements. Also, he committed to advance innovative approaches to solve difficult Criminal Justice issues, acutely aware of the power of the criminal justice system to marginalize people who have made a serious mistake but should not be subject to a life sentence outside society.

 He seeks to make the system work for both victims (security) and offenders (fairness).

Other issues he touched upon:

TJ has successfully advocated for a variety of innovative criminal justice policies including universal access to naloxone treatment;

decriminalization of marijuana;

the broadest Good Samaritan law in the country for people involved in overdose cases that call 911;

increased access to medication assisted treatment;

“ban the box” legislation; (persuading employers to remove from their hiring applications the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record), and

greater access to needle exchanges.

These programs have helped reduce the harm caused by criminal activity. TJ Donovan was among the first public officials in Vermont to focus his public advocacy on the scourge of opiates like heroin and its addiction in Vermont, dedicating resources to address this issue.

In this vein, he will continue to speak out against the building of new prisons and the contracting with private prison companies.  Thanks TJ, a "freind of the Club" who has
today , as he has done at the Club in the past, brought current issues to us in a passionate and fresh take.
It was a great back-and-forth with the Attorney General and the Club . We got to capture a few of the crew with T.J. before we all headed out. (Pictured, l to r, are Rotarians L.Veronneau, J.Beck, T.Cope, the A.G., D.Feeney and Club President J. Gaida.)