WATCH: Newbury voters overwhelmingly oppose a state juvenile treatment facility in town. What’s next?
In a largely symbolic vote on Town Meeting Day, Newbury residents overwhelmingly rejected the state’s plan to build a juvenile detention facility in the town. The non-binding ballot item directs the select board to inform the governor and legislature that the majority of residents don’t want the facility in their town.
Newbury residents and town officials say they don't have the services to support the proposed facility.
“I feel like the facilities themselves are needed. I really do. But we’re so rural, and we don’t have the kind of police force needed,” said Newbury resident Heather Fischer on Town Meeting Day. “We’re just so rural, we don’t take care of certain roads."
The proposed six-bed facility would house boys aged 12 to 17. The building, an old bed and breakfast, sits at the end of a dirt road on 278-acres of mostly wooded terrain.
The Newbury facility would fill part of the void left when Woodside, Vermont’s sole juvenile detention facility, closed in 2020 amid a dwindling population and allegations of staffers using excessive force against youth. Without the facility, kids who need treatment in a locked setting have nowhere to go in state, and in some cases end up in adult prison. Though the juvenile justice system tends to focus on rehabilitation over incarceration, state officials say Vermont still needs a locked facility for some kids.
The Newbury Development Review Board denied an application for the juvenile facility in 2021, but an environmental court judge overruled that decision. The town has appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court. That case is still pending.