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Vermont Law Prof Helps Guide Reform of Criminal Justice System

January 24, 2014

CONTACT: Peter Glenshaw, Director of Communications, Vermont Law School
Office: 802-831-1318, cell: 603-738-8487, home: 603-795-4764,

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., Jan. 24, 2014—Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin received national attention earlier this month when he devoted his annual “State of the State” address to the problem of addiction and its impact on the criminal justice system. In addition to admitting that Vermont faces a “full-blown heroin crisis,” the governor called for an overhaul in how drug users are treated by the criminal justice system in the state. At the heart of that proposed change is work that directly involves Vermont Law Visiting Professor and former Windsor County State’s Attorney Robert L. Sand.

In his address, Shumlin said the criminal justice system in Vermont is “not well-equipped to seize this moment. It can take weeks or months to wind your way through the court system from arrest to conviction, leaving an addict time to settle back into old habits. I want to give our prosecutors and judges the resources needed to strike immediately.”

One of the resources requested by the governor involves three pretrial programs—rapid intervention, rapid referral, and case management—that Sand hopes the state legislature will authorize to become statewide programs by passing bill S.295.

“We are taking the three best pretrial programs that exist in the state and taking them to scale,” said Sand, who was asked by the governor’s office to assist in seeking passage of S.295 and implementing statewide pretrial services. “If this bill is authorized by the Vermont legislature, it will represent one of the biggest changes in the Vermont criminal justice system in the last two decades.”

In the coming months, he will work to shepherd S.295 through the legislature and then oversee the creation of the statewide infrastructure needed to administer these programs.

Sand has been working on these issues for the last year and in November hosted a conference on innovative criminal justice practices in Vermont. He teaches criminal law to first-year students and is one of the founding faculty members of Vermont Law’s unique criminal law clinic. In addition to his faculty role at Vermont Law, Sand is a senior policy and legal advisor for the Vermont Department of Public Safety.

New opportunities for law school students and graduates may emerge with the passing of S.295. One of the programs, rapid intervention, involves the need for risk assessment using an evidence-based instrument that predicts risk for flight or need for rehabilitation. Sand said law students have been trained in risk assessment in jurisdictions outside Vermont, and he believes that Vermont Law students could be trained to administer such an assessment in the future. He also said that if Vermont and other states adopt pretrial service programs to address crime related to addiction, it could lead to a new set of legal jobs that juris doctor graduates would be well positioned to fulfill.

While this work is still at the proposal stage, Sand is excited about what the future holds for Vermont’s criminal justice system.

“There are lots of issues still to address, and we don’t want to assume the Vermont legislation will pass the bill, but Governor Shumlin has done the right thing by singularly calling attention to this issue and suggesting that a new approach is needed,” Sand said.


Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; two Master’s Degrees (Master of Environmental Law and Policy, and Master of Energy Regulation and Law), and three post-JD degrees—LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, and LLM in Environmental Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, the South Royalton Legal Clinic, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. For more information, visit, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

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