Ex-convict 'transition' house planned for Chester
By Kevin O'Connor
Staff Writer | May 09,2014
CHESTER — The Springfield Restorative Justice Center is seeking to open a three-bedroom continuously monitored “transition” house in the town of Chester for newly released prisoners.
In the program — so far without an address — recently released ex-convicts would live in a supervised environment for up to a year as they receive help securing permanent jobs and housing.
“The goal is to have them get all their ducks in a row so they become contributing members of society,” center director Wendi Germain told the Chester Select Board this week. “They're going to come back to the community anyway, so having them come back with support is better safety-wise than not having support.”
Chester Police Chief Richard Cloud — noting “there are pros and cons to everything” — has expressed appreciation for the concept, which would feature around-the-clock staff members and video surveillance. But the Select Board has enough questions to schedule more discussion at its next regular meeting May 21.
“I understand what you're trying to achieve,” Selectman Derek Suursoo told Germain, “but I want to get a sense of what the public comment is going to be.”
The center doesn't need town permission to rent or buy a residential property as long as it abides by all other laws. But Germain said her organization wanted to work with local leaders and the community so everyone understood its goals.
The center currently rents four single-bedroom apartments for the same purpose in Springfield. It is seeking a companion Chester property that would meet Vermont Department of Corrections requirements that prohibit such a program in neighborhoods with schools, children or other safety concerns.
“I don't picture it on a residential street,” Germain said. “I picture more a little bit in the woods.”
Occupants would be banned from having alcohol, weapons or vehicles. The center hopes they would be able to garden and perhaps raise chickens.
“We'll work with people to learn the skills of daily living and accountability and find employment and permanent affordable living situations,” Germain said.
The center would choose whom to place in the program. But the fact that could include up to two sex offenders at any time sparked questions.
“You understand people are going to be apprehensive,” Selectman Thomas Bock said.
“We haven't had issues in the past,” Germain replied. “These are the folks who have little to no family or life skills. We're going to make sure they have support. Our ultimate goal is to keep people out of jail. If we do that, it makes our community a lot safer.”