KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- Reacting to a "whistleblower’s report" about accountability, the state auditor has identified accountability problems with the Department of Corrections’ local transitional housing facility at 204 Depot St.
The non-audit report focused on the Bennington facility, run by Seall Inc., because that is where the complaint originated, but the types of concerns the non-audit report found were the sort that could be happening at similar places across the state, according to Deputy State Auditor Susan Mesner.
In July, the Office of the State Auditor sent its report to Department of Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito, who responded to each issue raised in August.
"Right now we’re taking a ‘wait and see’ approach," said Mesner in an interview last week. She said the Department of Corrections has responded to each of the issues with an explanation as to how it plans to address them. Mesner said her agency will follow up but there is no official timeline.
The report includes seven issues, among them being rent paid by residents not being returned to the DOC, Seall not being made aware of residents’ release conditions, no record of case management plans, Seall staff not being required to have background checks or report misconduct, no official plan regarding the length of a stay, and no documentation of "service outcomes."
Mesner said there were other, lesser issues, but the ones in the report she felt needed to be addressed the most. They mainly relate to the state’s ability to determine how well its transitional housing program is working.
Derek Miodownik, community and restorative justice executive for the DOC, said none of the issues raised are difficult to fix, but addressing them will take some time. "We are definitely moving forward with this," he said, adding that the DOC will also look to see if there are similar issues with its other facility managers.
The DOC has contractual agreements with grantees such as Seall. The auditors report looked at what was in the agreement to see if the terms were being met.
Miodownik said when an offender is released from jail, often he or she is unemployed and has nowhere to live. He said the transitional housing facilities do more than put a roof over a person’s head -- they offer classes and programs to help the person find employment and access any other social programs they may need.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.