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January 8, 2007

Vermont Court: Prisons as Places of Public Accommodation

The Vermont Supreme Court held that a state correctional facility was a "place of public accommodation" in terms of the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act in Dept. of Corrections v. Human Rights Comm'n, 2006 WL 3821475 (Vt. Dec. 29 2006).  Over a dissent, a majority held that prisons are places of public accommodation.  There's got to be a joke in there.  The majority realized that prisons don't normally fit the definition -- which it said had been "an establishment that provided benefits or services to the general public" -- but nonetheless relied on various construction arguments to hold that prisons were such places.  The dissent vigorously disagreed, among other things pointing out:

The statute defines a "place of public accommodation" to mean:

    any school, restaurant, store, establishment or other facility at
    which services, facilities, goods, privileges, advantages,
    benefits or accommodations are offered to the general public.

9 V.S.A. § 4501(1).  Prisons do not offer "services, facilities . . . or accommodations . . . to the general public," and so are not places of public accommodation as defined by the statute.

January 8, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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