Letter: Civil liberties, far and near

To the Editor:

While it's often easier to point to progress and setbacks in protecting civil rights in other parts of the country, James Lyall of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont brought it home in a recent public talk at the Bennington Free Library, covered by staff writer Derek Carson ("VT ACLU director speaks in Bennington," 2/23/18). In an evening sponsored by the Bennington Branch of the American Association of University Women, Mr. Lyall spoke about immigration, drawing upon his prior experience in California and Arizona as a lawyer advocating for children facing deportation and litigating immigration cases on the border.

But his focus was on ACLU's new civil liberties campaign, "Smart Justice Vermont." He said that the U.S. represents just 4 percent of the world's population, yet locks up nearly 25 percent of the world's prisoners, and here in Vermont our incarceration rate has tripled since the 1980s. He added that Vermont imprisons African-American men at a higher rate than any other state. We thank Mr. Lyall for opening up a local discussion about civil liberties in Vermont, and Mr. Carson for his reliably excellent reporting.

Ruth Botzow

President, Bennington Branch, AAUW


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