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Newbury asks Vermont Supreme Court to reconsider juvenile facility case

A brown house sits on top of a hill.
Liam Elder-Connors
Vermont Public
A recent ruling by the Vermont Supreme Court paved the way for a locked juvenile treatment facility to be built in Newbury. The town and residents want the state's highest court to reconsider the case.

The town of Newbury and a group of citizens have asked the state’s highest court to reconsider a recent ruling that paved the way for the state to build a locked juvenile facility in Newbury.

The Vermont Supreme Court, in a ruling on Dec. 21, determined that the facility met the definition of a group home and the town couldn’t block the project from being built.

In a motion for reargument filed on Dec. 26, James Barlow, an attorney representing the town of Newbury, wrote that the high court “misapplied the standard of review and ignored facts” that showed the proposed project was a detention center, not a group home. A group of town residents, Concerned4Newbury, filed a similar motion on Dec. 27.

Barlow, in the town’s filing, pointed to the plans for the facility to have bulletproof windows, doors that are locked 24 hours a day, and “450 linear feet of detention security fencing.”

“Giving the Court the benefit of the doubt, there can be no explanation for the decision other than that the Court has misapprehended both the facts and the law,” Barlow wrote. “In light of the facts in the record, it is impossible to conceive that the proposed facility could in any way present the 'normal residential surroundings' that the Legislature and this Court have previously sought to preserve and protect for 'developmentally disabled and physically handicapped persons.'"

Barlow, in an email, declined further comment.

More from Vermont Public: WATCH: Newbury voters overwhelmingly oppose a state juvenile treatment facility in town. What’s next?

The Vermont Supreme Court rarely grants motions for reargument. In 2020, the high court fully granted one motion for reargument, partially granted four, and denied the other 30 requests, according to judiciary data.

The Newbury project was initially developed by the Department for Children and Families as a replacement for Woodside, which was the state’s only juvenile detention facility. It closed in 2020 amid allegations that staff used excessive force and unlawful restraints against children.

DCF has argued that the Newbury facility would be used to help treat children with disabilities and behavioral issues, including those accused of committing a crime.

"We think the court made the right decision and that it is a good decision in support of the kinds of places that are critical to our complex system of care for Vermonters of all ages," said DCF Commissioner Chris Winters, in a written statement. "We will continue to work with the town to help alleviate whatever concerns they might have."

The Newbury project would house six boys, aged 12 to 17, at the site of a former bed and breakfast. The building sits off a dirt road on about 278 acres of mostly wooded terrain. It’s owned by the Vermont Permanency Initiative, a nonprofit that runs other therapeutic programs. DCF would contract with VPI to run the facility if it’s built.

DCF is pursuing several other projects to fill the void left when Woodside closed. The department is planning to open a temporary “crisis stabilization facility” in Middlesex and has two requests for proposals out for new secure juvenile facilities in Vergennes and South Burlington, Winters said in late December.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or contact reporter Liam Elder-Connors:


Updated: January 9, 2024 at 4:11 PM EST
This story was updated to included a written comment from DCF Commissioner Chris Winters.
Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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