April 21, 2015

Richard Law challenges Corrections department claims

See earlier stories HERE and HERE
4-21-15 Vermont:

BARRE — Richard Laws, the sex offender recently released from prison after serving his sentence, disputes the Department of Corrections’ claims that he refused treatment, claiming that the Department instead wouldn’t allow him to participate in treatment, including during his 10-year relocation to a prison in Kentucky.

Laws spent about 23 years behind bars for kidnapping, raping and beating a woman in the early 1990s. According to court records, Laws pleaded guilty in 1993 to kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault. He was sentenced to serve 25 to 30 years.

He was released earlier this month, but before he was freed police conducted a public information campaign to educate people about him, including his alleged refusal to seek treatment and his being deemed a high risk to re-offend. Police distributed flyers with Laws’ picture and some of his criminal history to local businesses.

In an interview Monday, Laws said the Department has misled the public regarding his efforts to get treatment.

“That’s just not the truth,” he said. “The truth is they left me out of state until I was seven months from maxing out and they wouldn’t let me program out of state. They just left me out there. By the time they brought me back there wasn’t even any time to program.”

Laws was eligible for release on his minimum date back in April 2005, but because he had not had treatment, he spent 10 more years behind bars.

“You’d have to be pretty foolish to believe that I would choose to spend an extra 10 years in prison because I didn’t want to do some 18-month program,” Laws said. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t have done to avoid spending an extra 10 years in prison. Think about it, I’m 49 years old, I would have been out when I was 38. How could you even consider that to be plausible?”

In an effort to reduce overcrowding in its prisons, Vermont sends some of its inmates to Kentucky and Arizona under a contract with the private, for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. The Department had no comment about Laws for this story, saying he is no longer under their supervision. However, Commissioner Andrew Pallito said Monday that Vermont inmates housed in other states who need treatment for substance abuse or sex offender treatment are brought back to Vermont to get that treatment in time before the inmates complete their sentences.

Laws has sued the state multiple times for treatment-related reasons. In one case, Judge Helen Toor dismissed a suit in 2009 in which Laws claimed the Department of Corrections gave the parole board inaccurate information about his willingness to get an assessment that would get the ball rolling for treatment.

According to court records, the Department told the board in 2007 that Laws had refused to take the assessment twice. However, by the state’s own admission, it neglected to tell the board that Laws had indeed done the assessment at a later date. Court records show Laws had declined the assessment at first because he had appealed his case and didn’t want to disclose information that could hurt that appeal. Once that case was finalized, Laws took the assessment.

After the state made that admission, Toor dismissed the case because the state had rectified the error. The state noted that the parole board denied Laws parole because of major violations he committed while behind bars, not because of what it had said to the board about Laws. Court records did not go into detail about what those violations were.

Since his release from prison, Laws said, he has been overwhelmed by all the attention focused on him. Most of the media attention directed at Laws has focused on the fact that Laws is an “untreated” sex offender and therefore presents a bigger risk to the community than a sex offender who has undergone treatment.

“Corrections is sounding the alarm for a situation they completely created themselves,” he said, adding he was absolutely willing to participate in treatment programming.

Laws is currently spending nights in Barre and traveling to Burlington during the day to look for work and get mental health treatment. Because of the heightened attention on him, he says he avoids downtown Barre because people recognize him from fliers that were posted just prior to his release from jail and yell at him.

Laws said seven businesses have issued no-trespass orders against him. He also says he can no longer take the bus to Burlington because it stops at the University of Vermont, which also has a no-trespass order against him.

“You couldn’t do more to alienate me from the community than you’ve done,” Laws said. ..Source.. by Eric Blaisdell

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