Let’s pack a rules hearing Friday, March 16, 2018 - 9:00 AM

Friday is the biggest State House showdown since 50 loved ones of prisoners spoke at a 2011 hearing to keep 600 inmates from transferring to Arizona. The Joint Rules Committee will hear testimony at 9 a.m. in Room 306 of the Legislative Office Building on 120 pages of proposed prison administrative rules. You can see them all at this link. The key rules are in the 300 and 400 series.  https://www.nh.gov/nhdoc/news/2017/draftrules2017.htm   
Unfortunately, another 30 pages of draft rules about the men’s and women’s sex offender treatment programs will have a later hearing.  The prison system has submitted only the first three pages of sex offender treatment rules, and we’re asking lawmakers to review those pages together with all the related material. Below is our letter to lawmakers with that request. Come listen. Come testify.
We respectfully ask the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules to postpone any action Mar. 16 on three pages of the Corrections 300 series rules that deal with convicted sexual offenders. Specifically, we’re referring to pages 11 through 13. You will soon receive the closely related draft 500 series rules. We recommend you discuss and vote on both sets of proposed administrative rules at the same time as a matter of fairness and efficiency.  Almost all of this material is brand new.
Chris Kench, author of the updated Corrections rules, has kindly shared with me an advance copy of the proposed 500 series rules.  The 300 series rules introduce a prison board called the Administrative Review Committee that has long served as a sort of parole board for sexual offenders. But only the 500 series rules fully explain what the ARC does and how it works. The Administrative Review Committee has operated in an extralegal way for many years without any administrative rulemaking. A performance audit of the prison sexual offender treatment program in late 2016 advised Corrections to get administrative rules approved for the Administrative Review Committee in part because it had been withholding critical information about prisoners going before the Parole Board. The following passage from page 33 of the audit shows that the Administrative Review Committee had all but usurped the authority of the Parole Board to make parole decisions about sexual offenders. And the Parole Board went along with that understanding.   
Adult Parole Board (Board) members reported the type of information relayed to Board members when considering a sexual offender for parole could be improved. For each sexual offender completing the Intensive Sexual Offender Treatment (ISOT) program, the Board received a list of recommendations for further treatment or restrictions which were eventually incorporated as parole conditions. For example, based on the offender’s crime, it was not uncommon for SOT 
clinicians to recommend restrictions on computer, internet, or social media use; prohibitions on frequenting specific places; or further counseling for other underlying issues. While all Board members stated these recommendations were helpful, members also reported other information such as the sexual offender’s assessment scores, treatment progress, level of participation in treatment, and whether they showed signs of accepting responsibility for their crime would also be helpful for making parole decisions. However, this information was not directly provided by the ISOT program.
You will find that the text in the proposed 300 rules gives only a partial glimpse at  a much larger proposed sexual offender rule.  Your decision on those 300 series rules would be better made if you evaluate all references to the sexual offender program at the same time. We believe our non-profit agency can work with Corrections this spring on improvements to the complete package of sexual offender treatment rules that would greatly simplify your task in reviewing them.
Undoubtedly, the JLCAR Committee and the Department of Corrections feel pressure to adopt substantial rulemaking before all of the existing Corrections rules lapse at the end of this month. But please be aware the Department of Corrections has no obligation in statute to file any rules with JLCAR.  For example, it has never adopted administrative rules to cover its extensive operations in community parole supervision, probation, or community-based  sexual offender treatment. Those programs affect far more people than the population subject to the draft 100, 200, 300 and 400 series rules under review this month.  
Nor is there proposed rulemaking to cover the placement of women in the most hazardous ward of the men’s prison or the use of portable phone-booth-sized cells to house dangerous inmates in group counseling. All of these questionable activities will continue in the absence of rulemaking. The department can and will administer them on its sole authority. Our members are necessarily preparing two hours of testimony for Mar. 16 on the 300 series sexual offender treatment rules and the draft 500 series because the two packages of rules closely impact each other.  The 500 series rules and pages 11 to 13 of the 300 series rules are attached for your convenience. The story of this program is incomplete if you vote on the 300 rules by themselves. We respectfully ask lawmakers to address both issues together at a later date.   
PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU CAN COME:  Chris Dornin can be reached at 228-9610 and cldornin@aol.com.