The citizens of Vermont need to demand accountability.

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To the editor,

Several months ago I attended a few meetings at the United Church of Newport called Third Street Chats.  These discussions were generated to uncover solutions to take back Newport streets from the drug trafficking that is threatening the safety of its residents.  

After a huge and probably costly sting operation, approximately 46 drug dealers/users were arrested.  Jennifer Barrett, Orleans County States Attorney, stated they were not looking for jail time, but wanted to make sure the offenders were aware of the various services available to them.  The suggestions at these meetings were to make the drug dealers feel like they matter because they are just regular folks like us, struggling to support their families. 

OMG.  It was suggested that drug use is rampant in Newport because there is not enough to do here.  To that, I say:  “Try getting a job, that will keep you busy all week.”  Other suggestions included Big Brothers/Big Sisters, free yoga/meditation, pizza parties, Journey to Recovery, availability of Narcan, free transportation, possible injection sites, etc.  

I was skeptical at best.  Now a [car crash] in Lyndonville has taken the life of an innocent three-year-old child and put his mother in critical condition.  The woman accused of causing the crash had 26 prior convictions, no driver’s license, nor automobile insurance.  I am told that addiction is a disease, not a choice.  In Vermont you can steal a bow and arrow out of a vehicle and shoot someone’s beloved horse in Barre and brag about it.  The only consequence was rehab.  Playing the drug addict defense seems to be a get out of jail free card.  

With 26 prior convictions, I believe this woman in Lyndonville had more than ample opportunity to take advantage of all the services available! She made the choice to not partake.  She made the choice to get in a vehicle with no license or insurance.  There is no accountability.  How do the judges, state’s attorneys and other court officials live with themselves and sleep at night?  This woman should have been incarcerated after 26 prior convictions.  Why was she out free in society with a current probation violation? 

This horrible tragedy was so very preventable and should never have happened.  I think the last judge who released her on probation should have the task of telling the baby’s mother that her child is dead. 

The woman had no automobile insurance.  So who pays for the huge medical bills, funeral expenses and totaled car for the victim?  The woman does not appear to be gainfully employed so there will be no demand for restitution.  I see where the victim’s family has started a GoFundMe account.  I don’t see why the public should be burdened with the financial costs while the ones responsible have no accountability.  Generous, decent, law abiding citizens will donate but no amount of money will bring back the child.  The court system has miserably failed this innocent child and his entire family.  I am all for helping people who want to help themselves.  After 26 prior convictions, it is long overdue to say enough is enough and start incarcerating repeat offenders.  The rest of us have a right to be safe on our streets.  The citizens of Vermont need to demand accountability of our legislators, judges and court system.

Shelah Vogel, Newport Center

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