House Arrest Program Changed After Controversy Over Zaccaro
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Vermont no longer will let convicted drug dealers take part in a house arrest program under which John Zaccaro Jr. is spending his four-month cocaine trafficking term in a $1,500-a-month luxury apartment.
″Hallelujah 3/8″ said Addison County States Attorney John Quinn upon learning of Gov. Madeleine Kunin’s announcement Thursday.
″I never considered that drug dealers were non-violent offenders. I never thought they should be in the house arrest program no matter who they are,″ said Quinn, who prosecuted Zaccaro and opposed his entry into the program.
The changes do not apply to those already in the house arrest program, including Zaccaro, the 24-year-old son of former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
Kunin’s announcement followed public outcry over the disclosure that Zaccaro was living in the maid-service apartment while in the program.
The house arrest program allows non-violent criminals to find and pay for their own housing and spend their sentence outside of prison while under strict supervision.
Zaccaro was convicted in April of selling $25 worth of cocaine to an undercover police officer. He was sentenced to four months in prison, but spent only 29 minutes in the Chittenden Community Correctional Center in July before moving to the Montpelier apartment.
Kunin defended the program overall, saying it provided the necessary element of punishment and helped to reduce overcrowding in Vermont’s prisons. However, she said, the program must exclude drug dealers.
″We must have confidence, public confidence in the system,″ she said. ″I also feel that we have to send a very strong message in terms of drug offenders.″
Under the changes, program participants also must spend at least 24 hours in traditional incarceration before moving to their house-arrest residences.
Kunin said many assumptions about drug offenses have changed since the original program guidelines were drafted in 1983.
″Instead of considering this to be a low to moderate offense as it had been in the past, it should be moved up because I think anyone who sells drugs anywhere in the world, in this country, in the state of Vermont, is a serious offender,″ Kunin said.
Corrections Commissioner Joseph Patrissi, however, told Kunin that a review of similar house arrest programs in eight other states found none barred drug offenders.