State House crime policy hearings week of Feb. 4, 2019

Sate House Crime Policy Hearings Week of February 4, 2019
Monday February 4,  Legislative Ethics Committee 104 LOB.

Tuesday, Feb. 5,  1 p.m. hearing in Representatives Hall on HB 481 to legalize pot. This is one of half a dozen bills to expand the lawful use of marijuana supported by Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform.
Senate Judiciary Room 100, SH 
9:00 a.m. SB 298-FN to allow prosecutors or defense attorneys to require a Massachusetts resident to appear at a New Hampshire criminal trial. That sounds like a good idea, although our agency takes no position on the bill. 
9:15 a.m. SB 299-FN, requiring good behavior for release without arrest or bail. The sponsors believe the bill might reduce the number of pre-trial incarcerations and bail hearings.
Wednesday, Feb. 6, House Criminal Justice, Room 204 LOB 
9 am subcommittee on HB 486 to let ex-felons vote. Nobody opposed this superb bill at its public hearing, and we urge folks to email lawmakers to pass it into law. 
10 am hearing on HB-732 requiring NH law enforcement officers to stop racial profiling. The bill also directs prison officials to notify judges of any minority prisoners serving a tougher sentence than whites would get. A superb book on racism and prison reform, The New Jim Crow, calls us to endorse and testify in favor of legislation like HB-732.  If anyone can attend the hearing, I'll be there to help you. If you bring written testimony, that's great. You can also email comments to lawmakers later at
1 p.m. work session on HB-481 to legalize pot
House Education Committee, 207 LOB
10 am HB 529 to terminate any school employees who testify at the sentence hearing for a sex offender. See our testimony below against this singularly dangerous bill.
House Health and Human Services, 208 LOB, HB-694 to allow towns to set up anonymous controlled drug take-back programs. This superb bill would let any town copy or adapt a Londonderry town policy to let residents anonymously hand in illegal drugs to the police without stigma or criminal penalty. 
Thursday Feb. 7, House Criminal Justice, room 204 LOB, 10 a.m. executive session:
HB-201 to double the already draconian punishment for Johns of teen prostitutes who lie about their age . See testimony below against the bill.
HB-518 to free inmates and parolees from paying $40,000 per year for their imprisonment. 
HB-486 to let all former prisoners vote, including those in halfway houses. The latter two bills are superb and received strong support at their public hearings. 
Senate Judiciary, Room 100, State House
9:00 a.m. SB 311-FN lets defendants found innocent at trial avoid paying a fee to get an annulment. It also lets a wider range of people found guilty seek annulment of a conviction.   
Tuesday, Feb. 12, House Criminal Justice
10 a.m. executive session on HB 481 to legalize pot
1 p.m. HB 726 to build and pay for a proper secure psychiatric unit. Women are housed there now without the required rulemaking to justify this cruel practice. Passing this bill is one of our top priorities. This may be the year to do it.
Feb. 19, 10 a.m. Public hearing in Representatives Hall on HB 455 to abolish the death penalty. Several of our board members have been working for years with opponents of the death penalty. Proponents may have the House and Senate votes this year to override an expected veto from the governor.
Feb. 20 House Criminal Justice, 204 LOB, 10 a.m. committee discussion on HB 455 to abolish the death penalty
Lawmakersuse HB-529 to study the causes of school witch hunts 
By Chris Dornin of Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform,, 603-228-9610
Fifty years ago the parents at Newfound High School shut down rehearsals for one of the greatest plays in American theater, “Death of a Salesman.” The hero, Willy Loman, was visiting a prostitute off stage. As the school drama director, I had to drop everything and prepare three squeaky clean one-act plays. It was my first experience with a New Hampshire witch hunt over sexuality. I have seen a few more at a safer distance.

Last year guidance counselor Kristie Torbick was found guilty of molesting one of her students in the Exeter School District. Twenty-seven people, most of them fellow teachers and counselors, spoke or submitted written testimony on her behalf at her post-conviction sentence hearing. If the proposed bill, HB 529, had been the law, almost all those educators would have lost their jobs and their careers. That would have been a terrible outcome and prohibited a balanced justice system.
As it was, half a dozen staff at Exeter High School, at Bedford High School where Torbick previously worked, and at Plymouth State University have been fired, eased out or otherwise disciplined because of their testimony in the Torbick case. Those officials were in no way condoning the alleged sexual offense, they were simply noting that in contrast to the crimes Torbick was charged with she also made many positive contributions to society. All judges request and need input about a persons total life in order to sentence someone fairly. People speaking for and against someone is called equal justice.

They were helping a judge decide on a fair and well informed punishment for the crime of a woman who exchanged 23,000 emails with her victim. That is not the output of a premeditated serial predator. It was the foolish and self-incriminating written record of someone hopelessly infatuated with an underage student. 
HB-529 is so vindictive and unconstitutional it must never become state law. But a calm study commission on the valid issues it raises might do some good. I had a helpful conversation last week with the prime sponsor of this bill. Rep. Linda Camarota of Bedford. I learned that hundreds of local parents and students will never again trust the staff members who testified at the Torbick sentence hearing. That’s a very real problem, and I’m glad I don’t serve on the Bedford School Board. But the solution in HB-529 is unacceptable in a democracy founded on the rule of law and the principle of a fair trial. 
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.
Please direct any questions to Chris Dornin, co-founder, Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, (603) 228-9610