We at PRISON CALL DEALS are inspired by stories of families providing support to their inmates – one such story features Meg McCarthy, a graphic designer and advocate for prison reform, who has been invited to serve on the Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform’s board of directors. Her husband, Richard Gagnon, is serving a 17-years-to-life sentence for killing his boss, Brattleboro Food Co-op store manager Michael Martin, in 2011.
She is fighting against Vermont’s policy to send prisoners to for-profit prisons in Kentucky, a policy she says undermines family support and a prisoner’s successful re-entry. She argues that it’s in everyone’s interest to look at alternatives that work better.
McCarthy writes “It’s frightening when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. When that loved one is almost a thousand miles away, in a for-profit prison in Kentucky, the feelings of terror and helplessness are multiplied. And it’s exactly what happened to me in July of this year.
My husband, Richard, had a persistent sore throat earlier in the summer, and eventually was given a blood test when it didn’t respond to antibiotics. The staff there first told him he might have leukemia, then lymphoma. When a biopsy was finally done, it was shown to be neck cancer, originating in his tonsil.
Richard had been sent to Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, Ky., because the Vermont Department of Corrections had run out of space in our Vermont facilities. Almost 500 Vermont inmates are housed in prisons owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA. Most are in Kentucky; a couple of dozen or so are in Arizona.
Having a loved one so far from home is a terrible hardship for families, many of whom can’t afford to make the costly trip south even once a year. Some are never able to make it at all, and they haven’t seen their inmate in five, ten, or more years.
By the time Richard was diagnosed, he had been in LAC for nearly two years. I had made the trip down to visit him several times. As much of a financial burden as it was, it was important to me to keep our relationship strong, and for him to feel the love and support firsthand.”
You can watch a video of Meg McCarthy here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwg4Aj58yb4
States and the federal government are seeing that over-incarceration is counterproductive.
Prisons are not making people better citizens, and they are not making us safer. There are alternatives to incarceration.
McCarthy argues that the way to bring Vermonters home from Kentucky is to reduce the prison population. It is better for the communities to keep people ‘at home’ and better for the state if it isn’t sending tax dollars to a corrections corporation.
McCarthy works for Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, or VCJR, an organization that was formed to address issues concerning corrections in the state. It has launched a campaign, “Locked Up And #ShippedAway,” to educate Vermonters about ties with for-profit prisons, and to change public policy.
You can sign their petition: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6220/c/1606/p/dia/action3/common/public/
or take action: http://www.vermontersforcriminaljusticereform.org/take-action