I have always suspected that poverty has become a crime in this country. Now, because of a Dec. 16 newspaper article, “Vermont report: Impaired parolees need better services,” I am more certain that poverty has indeed become a crime.

Vermont’s Human Services secretary, Douglas Racine, said that because of ballooning costs, people coming out of prison will no longer get needed services through Medicaid if they don’t qualify. Racine was talking about how mentally challenged inmates and substance abusers will not get the therapy needed to help keep them from returning to prison. If they are extremely poor, they might get Medicaid. If they are lucky enough to get a low-wage job, however, they will not qualify for Medicaid. I say lucky because most people will not hire ex-felons, even at minimum wage.

So that puts many inmates without intervention services for parolees at a disadvantage. If they are at the middle area of poverty, they will be out of luck. Now here’s the other kick in the pants: Racine also said there was a plan to keep inmates imprisoned beyond their minimum sentences if they did not go through the rehabilitation process. Those who qualify for early release cannot leave prison if they cannot afford to pay for the needed rehabilitation service, which can cost $40 per hour or more. Who, making $8 per hour can afford that?

So, you see? If you are poor, you must remain in prison or jail. A rich man or one on Medicaid would be released. Because of loopholes in the law and lack of compassion, poverty has effectively become a crime.

When this system continues, the poor are held forever in this vicious cycle. One question remains: Are we willing to keep paying?

Peter P. SiroisMadison

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