Vermonters have a cheerful respect for people from New Jersey -- just check the traffic on Main Street in Woodstock any summer day and you'll see more than a fair representation of yellow license plates. But an incident last week set some residents teeth on edge. From what we can tell, Jersey Doors is one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the country. According to their brochure, their formula for success is simple: aggressive management and strict employee discipline -- and, what is not mentioned, a relentless commitment to cheating. From what was reported in the Woodstock Standard (our weekly newspaper), Jersey Doors lied extravagantly about its technical qualifications, and submitted absurdly unrealistic lowball quotes in order to get government contracts. JD was so good at landing contracts that they couldn't actually build anything. Apparently a reputation like this is priceless in New Jersey. The problem came to roost in Vermont when JD won a contract using Federal Stimulus Money to equip the Woodstock Jail with a high-tech state-of-the-art security door system. What actually got installed was a semi-random collection of hardware which included, as a central element, garage door openers purchased on sale at Sears for $99 a piece. The result was that during a bad electric storm (like the one that visited Woodstock early last week) a number of key doors simply opened themselves, leaving it up to the prisoners to decide, on the honor system, whether they wished to remain in jail. Mind you that the Honor System is as healthy in Vermont as anywhere, but there are limits to any system. As it happened, 32
prisoners out of 37 decided that they did not want to remain in jail. It was a huge story here in Vermont (OK, so it didn't make it all the way to CNN) what with a horde of criminals, some of them petty thieves and DUI offenders, running loose in the streets of Woodstock, pursued by a frantic posse of police and media. One escapee, apprehended at his home in the midst of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with extra peanut butter, was asked by Sheriff Brady "Who masterminded the escape?" as he was being hustled into a police cruiser. "Ain't nobody mastermind nothin'" the prisoner shouted back. "The mufuh doors just opened."