Republican Gov. Phil Scott's administration said it's taking steps to remove Vermont inmates from a public prison in Pennsylvania where two inmates have died since October.
The effort was announced Thursday — one day after Democratic lawmakers who head the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee, asked for inmates to be moved to another prison.
"We recognize that choices will be limited but we urge the Scott Administration to move as quickly as possible," state Sen. Dick Sears and Rep. Alice Emmons said in a letter to the governor's council, according to the Burlington Free Press.
Criminal justice advocates have raised concerns about conditions at Camp Hill in Pennsylvania over the deaths and the death of a third inmate shortly after returning to Vermont from the prison.
Vermont wants a better contract to address the prisoners' needs, but the interest in moving them is unrelated to the deaths, Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille said.
Scott says the state will issue a request for proposals soon.
Vermont houses a number of inmates out-of-state as a way to alleviate overcrowding in the state's prisons.
Corrections officials said 260 inmates from Vermont were being housed at Camp Hill on Thursday.
Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard said the department had considered moving the inmates out of Camp Hill before the letter from lawmakers. The facility serves as an inmate intake facility for Pennsylvania inmates who are generally housed there for a short time.
"It's not a facility, we now see, that is designed for, we believe, long-term housing," she said.
The state is looking for conditions that are perhaps more similar to Vermont for inmates serving long sentences, including more freedom to move with the facility or unit, access to education and more opportunities for contact with family.