Rep. Sytek kills our bill to make Corrections go through the administrative rulemaking process

Rep. John Sytek helped to scuttle SB 373 this month, our bill to force the Department of Corrections to get its policies approved by lawmakers as formal administrative rules. The legislation easily passed in the Senate. Here is a link to the bill.  

Sytek did his best to kill a similar bill last year, HB 192, when he chaired the subcommittee on the bill. The six-member group defied him and retained HB 192 to make sure Corrections goes through rulemaking before the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. Today only Corrections and the Parole Board remain free of any statuary requirement to get their policies vetted and approved by lawmakers.

Rep. Sytek has several times publicly denied having an ethical conflict on both HB 192 or SB 373, despite being married to Donna Sytek, the head of the Parole Board.  We at CCJR wrote and found sponsors for both bills because the Parole Board for many years deferred to the Department of Corrections on every decision to parole or retain a convicted sexual offender. 

Your read that right. Corrections never gave the Parole Board enough information to make its own informed votes on these inmates. That was the key finding of a performance audit of the sexual offender program in 2016. We worked with lawmakers for two years to obtain that scathing audit. You can read it on line here.

SB 373 sailed through the Senate on the consent calendar this winter with crucial support from Helen Hanks, the new commissioner of corrections. She opposed HB 192 last year. Hanks launched the formal rulemaking process two months ago on the first 120 pages of Corrections rulemaking, which got approved.

We await future public hearings and JLCAR votes on prison rules for the sexual offender treatment program inside the prison, for probation and parole supervision in the community, for the sex offender treatment program outside the walls, for the placement of women in the men’s prison, and for the use of tiny cages for dangerous prisoners during group counseling. 

Below is the legislative calendar blurb against SB 373 written by Rep. Sytek. 

SB 373, requiring rulemaking by the department of corrections. INEXPEDIENT TO LEGISLATE. Rep. John Sytek for Executive Departments and Administration. This bill is substantially the same as HB 192, which this House referred for interim study in January. Both bills would require additional rules of the Department of Corrections (DOC) to be subject to RSA 541-A, and the formal rulemaking process, through JLCAR. This bill required internal process rules, such as those for inmate behavior, be subject to RSA 541- A, and the committee was not convinced that these rules were appropriate for this process. The majority was convinced that this bill was unnecessary since it duplicated the provisions of HB 192. Further review of that bill in interim study will ensure that the DOC implements its commitment to update its rules expeditiously, and that effort is progressing. Those who voted against the Inexpedient to Legislate motion wanted to be certain that the DOC maintains its rate of progress and that the legislature would continue to monitor the situation – a kind of belt and suspenders approach. The majority felt referring two very similar bills for interim study would be redundant. Vote 11-7.

He failed to mention that the 2016 performance audit of the sexual offender treatment program was sharply critical of the Parole Board fore failing to do its job. .I have discussed that report with Rep. Sytek, I gave him a copy of it, and he should be familiar with it. All members of his committee received a copy last year.  

Page 33 of the audit says that Donna Sytek and her colleagues always took the advice of a secretive board within the prison called the Administrative Review Committee. It was functioning as the real parole board for sexual offenders. Both HB 192 and SB 373 would have corrected that problem. Here is maybe the key passage from the performance audit. 

“Adult Parole 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.” 

That is an amazing paragraph. For years the Parole Board never received a convicted sexual offender’s assessment scores, treatment progress, level of participation in treatment, and any signs of accepting responsibility for their crime. SB 373 would have stopped the Parole Board from abdicating in its job.

Donna Sytek has assured me the Parole Board now receives all that missing information, and one must believe her. But the failure of the Parole Board to fulfill its lawful job for years caused enormous harm to nearly one third of the male prison population. According to the audit report, 200 sexual offenders stayed in prison past their minimum sentences every year for four years. . We have reason to believe most of them never reached the Parole Board before their minimum terms expired. 

By Chris Dornin, co-founder, Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, 228-9610

Inmate criticisms of the sexual offender treatment program in June of 2016

By Chris Dornin, co-founder, Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, 228-9610

Each inmate statement below starts with an asterisk. A different inmate wrote each comment for the government staff doing an outside performance audit of the program in 2016. Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform has withheld inmate names, but they signed their statements. We have removed some of the strongest remarks for fear they might reveal who the writers were, even 24 months later. We have also withheld the names of employees.

  • What the hell is the Administrative Review Committee? Is that a second parole board? Why doesn’t anyone else have two parole boards?
  • Therapist 1 and therapist 2 are very effective and they care about what they’re doing, and more importantly, the people they work with. Their supervisor swears like a truck driver. She’s very unprofessional. She regularly throws people out of the program or forces them to take it over again for minor infractions. She’s a big part of the reason for the backlog. She was part of the problem that caused the last audit in 2012. The bottleneck is back in force.
  • The Administrative Review Committee has no PPDs that govern how it works. An inmate does not have any due process rights with it. The inmate is not allowed to be at the board, nor is the meeting audio or video taped. Nor is there any transcript of the meetings. This ARC board slows down the treatment program greatly. 
  • My lawyer put in for a sentence reduction at two thirds of my minimum. It was approved, but because I had not yet completed the (sex offender) program I am still waiting.
  • People who fail the polygraph wait months for another appointment.
  • They need to stop lying to the higher powers like the governor’s office and the state reps.
  • We are still required to participate in the (sex offender treatment) program when we are released on parole, so why waste the taxpayers’ money doing it inside?
  • The ARC has no prison rules and regulations. They have no set schedule or standards or oversight by anyone. I’m not even sure anyone outside the prison knows about it. My lawyer had no clue what it was.
  • I feel every therapist should have proof they are certified.
  • When that (Concord Monitor) article was in the paper all our newspapers were not delivered to us. Therapist 3 even came to the pod and told anyone that had gained access to a copy to give it up. I feel my rights were violated extremely at that moment.
  • I am done with the program and I’m still sitting here.
  • You have to start the program all over again if you fail the polygraph. There is a big backlog waiting for the illegal ARC board. They use it to punish people.  
  • My therapist quit right after the three new people were hired. I am being punished and sanctioned by having to restart the program from the beginning.
  • When I had 24 months left they said I couldn’t start the program due to the backlog.
  • They are denying me an education by forcing me to choose between taking the SOT program or getting a high school diploma. Whereas if I was allowed to pursue both, I could walk out on time.
  • The ARC, it’s a parole board before the parole board.
  • Recently more people have been going through the (sex offender) system a little quicker. It seems that Therapist 3 has been allowing more people to complete the program outside the prison. In the past, very few had this opportunity. That’s another area the auditors should look into. I’m pretty sure they’ll find very few were allowed to leave without completing the SOT. Just another reason why it was bogged down.
  • The auditors should take one day of their time to see how the program runs and see how much down time there is. The meetings are a waste of time. They say the same things over and over about the same things.
  • When you ask for the policy on the ARC they tell you to find it in the law library. The law library tells you it doesn’t exist.
  • Therapist 3 does everything she can to kick people out of the program, and she loses paperwork when they finish. 
  • This program actually does help some people, but at the cost of keeping them in prison longer than people without sex crimes.
  • Whoever is running the program doesn’t like to give accurate numbers of how many people are over their minimum and how many are waiting to take the program.
  • I am not guilty of the crime I was convicted of. The therapists say I am in denial. I will never admit to a crime I did not commit. (Note- Inmates must confess a sex crime in order to enter the sex offender treatment program and make parole. This speaker was going to max out.)  
  • The therapists all use different handouts. They have no structure or consistency. You can’t work at your own pace. You follow the therapist’s pace and your group’s pace.
  • I’ll be heading home more than a year after my minimum parole date. My mittimus states that I can complete the SOTP on the outside, after my release from prison. I was ready, willing and able to do this.
  • Now I’m waiting for the ARC. I sent my envelope to Mike Sheehan (an attorney with Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform) to make it legal mail. This place likes to intimidate inmates, go through their mail, and lose it. I just wanted to make sure it got to your office.
  • I had a paying job before I started this program. I was forced to quit it so I could take the program.
  • The people in the program live in the same pod. It puts a bulls eye on us with all the other inmates.
  • The ARC is a massive problem, and therapist 3 is one of the largest bottlenecks here.
  • The therapists are working very hard. If they had some more therapists it would be better.
  • I did my best to be an exemplary inmate hoping to get a sentence reduction after two thirds of my minimum. Without first completing the SOT, I can’t have a sentence reduction. 
  • I am fighting my sentence, so I can’t get into the program. It should be open to everyone, not just inmates that have no cases pending. (The above inmate was past his minimum release date.)   
  • The ARC keeps people from leaving on time. This in turn keeps others from getting into the program. One therapist is incredibly unprofessional. She has belittled and humiliated prisoners in front of others.
  • There are too many weaknesses to this program to list them all. Therapist 3 has no professional demeanor and breaks confidentiality on many levels. She is very biased against all sex offenders. 
  • The counselors are overwhelmed by the ratio of inmates to staff. I am now months past my parole date, but I’ve finished the program and the ARC. I should have been able to progress through custody levels like most other inmates, due to my good behavior. 
  • Why do sex offenders have to do the program on the inside and for another two years on the outside? When it comes time for the ARC or the parole board, therapist 3 has not done her reports, so here I sit waiting for therapist 3 again.
  • There are only two therapists meeting with 96 inmates at present. They have too much of a workload and the program takes way too long to complete. The groups keep taking on new members, which slows everyone’s progress. I requested entry to the program early enough to leave at two thirds of my minimum. I was ignored.
  • They use the ARC and polygraphs as weapons to keep sex offenders back longer.
  • I had a good therapist who quit for some reason. Then they put me in with therapist 3. We’re not making any headway with her. There are 200 or more people over their minimums. There is no need for this to happen. Why not take this program out on the street? There’s nothing getting done here. 
  • The polygraph is stressful on people because it is not being done right. They should also get rid of therapist 3 so people can learn something. She is mean and does not teach anything.
  • I started the program after my minimum. Many people had to redo some of the program when they hired the new therapists. The program director lies and threatens people. And the unconstitutional ARC needs to go.
  • The therapists don’t really know what they are doing.
  • One therapist creates a bottleneck by her bullying and intimidation. She makes people retake the program on violations that have nothing to do with sexual assault. If you show a blip on the polygraph she makes you take the program over. Which takes up another bed (in the sex offender unit) for 9-12 months.
  • I want to do the program. But not twice, once on the street and once on the inside. I believe the state has the budget for six therapists, but we only have two for real. Therapist 3 is not a therapist, judging by the way she treats people.
  • They need more staff and all the groups should run the same way.
  • Therapist 3 tries to control everything, breaks confidentiality, harasses inmates and picks and chooses favorites. Being treated as humans by therapist 3 and not as animals would be nice.
  • They make people redo the program if they fail the polygraph. It’s so shame based. The ARC made me take programming before I could leave. I am way past my minimum because of their backlog. The so-called counselors want to oppress people who are already oppressed. Who can learn from that?
  • Therapist 3 keeps this place jammed up really well. And the ARC and polygraph are in place for what reason? The ARC is a bottleneck parole board before the actual parole board. The polygraph I don’t understand at all. More people fail it than pass it, but not because they don’t tell the truth.
  • When therapist 4 retired and another therapist quit it set the program back many months. The two therapists they hired are very young and inexperienced. Putting 96 men together on a pod is no environment to study, get therapy or even think. I still have not done the ARC. The prison had many years to get me through this program on time, but I’m going to serve additional time due to their inability to plan.