News on crime bills for the week of Jan. 28

News on crime bills for the week of Jan. 28
By Chris Dornin

There was a tense subcommittee meeting last week on our HB--229 to make Corrections run its draft policies before lawmakers and get them approved as administrative rules. We need a show of support for the bill at its next subcommittee meeting on Mar. 5. I've been sitting down with the six sponsors of the bill, and two of them plan to speak at that critical workshop. We need members of CCJR to speak too.

There is a closely related public hearing before the Department of Corrections on Feb. 14 at 3 p.m. at 105 Pleasant Street. Commissioner Helen Hanks will unveil her draft administrative rules for the sex offender treatment program. She'll then bring them before lawmakers in March or April, and we really need a turnout for that showdown. We'll be sending out a detailed briefing soon to help folks prepare their own public testimony. Below is our written testimony for HB--229.

Please pass HB--229 to make Corrections get its policies adopted as administrative rules. By Tom Adams, co-founder, Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform

Rep. Peter Schmidt, the prime sponsor of HB--229, introduced two similar bills for us in the last session, HB--192 and SB-373. Commissioner Helen Hanks supported SB 373, but she asked for special funding in a non-budget year to hire someone to write administrative rules for the department. Both bills were studied for many months in committee. We would strongly support that funding as a line item in the proposed Corrections budget now in the Finance Committee.

Corrections is not yet required to get all of its internal policies approved as administrative rules. Last year the agency voluntarily submitted to rule making before the Joint Legislative Committee on administrative rules 100, 200, 300 and 400. That took a monumental effort, one that will have a long-term positive impact on prisoners and the public. But the sex offender treatment program has run for many years without formal administrative rules, which are already required by law.

We are pleased and grateful that Commissioner Hanks and her top administrators met recently with Rep. Peter Schmidt and three leaders from Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform. She explained that her staff are in a continual process of updating their rules to align with policy. We are aware they have revised their chapter 400 rules and will soon issue a chapter 500. We greatly respect this important work. We plan to speak at the public hearings for these new regulations.

Our testimony today is simply to make sure that Corrections, as with other state agencies, goes through administrative rule making for all of its policies. We believe HB--229 would specifically require rule making for parole supervision, for probation supervision, for the sex offender treatment program inside the walls, for the placement of women in the secure psychiatric unit, and for the use of small counseling cages that resemble phone booths. None of those policies has administrative rules yet.

We believe HB--229 also applies to the community sex offender aftercare therapy program. We understand it is the position of Corrections that several state agencies share responsibility for supervising that program. It is our hope that lawmakers will use HB--229 to give Corrections final responsibility for writing administrative rules that cover this form of community treatment.

Recent and upcoming bill workshops and hearings

Tuesday, Jan 29 Room 204 at 10 a.m. on HB--486
Good things happened this Tuesday, Jan. 29, at a subcommittee work session on HB--486, to let all former prisoners vote, including folks living in halfway houses. Lawmakers liked two good bill amendments written by the Civil Liberties Union and approved by Corrections officials, and lawmakers will meet again when the new text of the bill is ready. We at Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform are fighting for this bill. We have to save it from getting all but killed in a study commission. Testimony at the bill's public hearing showed that many parolees are unaware they can now vote under current law. Maine, Vermont and Florida already let inmates vote in their cell blocks.

Wednesday Jan. 30
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB 10:00 a.m. Executive session on HB--201-FN, increasing penalties for buyers under the law regarding trafficking in persons; HB- 218, relative to the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer; HB- 306, prohibiting the destruction of sexual assault evidence collection kits; HB- 609-FN, relative to penalties for possession or distribution of child erotica; HB- 637-FN, relative to criminal history background checks by employers and public agencies; HB- 491, relative to questioning and detaining suspects; HB- 518-FN, repealing certain statutes concerning reimbursement of cost of care by inmates.

We’ll be watching this committee debate and ensuing vote on eight bills important to the prisoner and ex-prisoner community. None of the spectators will get to testify unless lawmakers ask them to. At the bottom is our testimony against HB- 201. It increases the punishment for Johns if the prostitute is underage, now 3.5 to 7 year sentence. The bill would make that 7.5 to 15 years. Two former child prostitutes also opposed the bill, which means it will probably result in a study commission. The subcommittee meeting on the bill last week went well.

Executive session on HB- 232-FN-L, relative to enforcement of immigration laws and the prohibition of sanctuary policies; CCJR as a nonprofit agency takes no position on this bill, but it raises many criminal justice questions. It would cut off all state and federal funding for any town or city that refuses to round up its immigrants for summary deportation.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB 10:00 a.m. HB-732-FN, relative to over-sentencing and racial profiling

Here's a bill that asks NH law enforcement to stop racial profiling and asks Corrections to notify the sentencing judges of any minority prisoners serving a tougher bid than whites would get, that is, a tougher sentence than average. I believe a superb book on prison reform, The New Jim Crow, calls us to endorse and testify in favor of legislation like HB- 732. If anyone can make it, I'll be there to help you. If you bring written testimony, that's great. You can also email that to lawmakers later or forego it. You can email testimony to all committee members at


This is always a fascinating meeting where judges and folks from 20 or more state and private agencies discuss and sometimes advise action on crime policies and laws.

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Representatives Hall, SH 10:00 a.m. HB- 455-FN, relative to the penalty for capital murder. This year opponents of the death penalty, including CCJR, stand a pretty good chance of mustering super majorities in both houses to override an expected veto by Gov. Sununu. This much is certain. The bill will reach him.

Please reject HB- 201, a draconian punishment bill
By Chris Dornin of Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, 228-9610,

The penalty for buying the services of an underage prostitute increased dramatically three years ago. It went from a misdemeanor of less than a year behind bars to a class B felony of up to seven years. In addition, the ex-prisoner now has to go onto the sexual offender public registry and face a lifetime of unemployment or severe under employment. Lawmakers also barred the defense from claiming the underage prostitute lied about his or her age.

HB- 201 would raise the maximum incarceration for these johns to 15 years, without any evidence the first massive increase was good policy. Lawmakers in 2016 wisely agreed to study the issue before changing the law again. That study never happened. In fact, a growing body of research shows that many underage prostitutes market themselves without pimps and target their high school classmates. HB- 201 would raise the maximum incarceration for these young johns to 15 years. It is just too early for lawmakers to hike a penalty that is already draconian.

HB- 201 fails to target the real culprits, the adult pimps with a reasonable chance to know the age of a prostitute. The motives of these pimps are despicable. The large punishment hike in HB- 201 seems about right for the pimps, but not for the johns. I say that with one caveat. The pimp these days may be underage too. Maybe even a homeless close friend of the prostitute.

Included with this testimony is a chart I promised last week showing the comparative punishments for prostitutes and johns by state. Most states already impose lesser punishments than New Hampshire. HB- 201 would more than double ours.