State House News, March 3, 2015 Come fight for prisons budget this Thursday

Thousands of New Hampshire prisoners and parolees need your help March 5 at the public hearing on the governor’s budget. It hikes annual spending for prisons and parole from $100 million to $119 million. Most of the increase is for staffing the new women’s prison under construction. The budget also funds the embattled Medicaid expansion health insurance program that especially helps parolees.

Parolees and the families of prisoners need to show up. The hearing runs from 4 to 7 p.m. in Representatives Hall under the Golden Dome. Lawmakers must hear from some real experts that our prisons are badly overcrowded and understaffed. 

To be honest, the governor’s budget is woefully inadequate to train, rehabilitate and restore all the human beings New Hampshire locks away and forgets. But it’s probably the best we can hope for. The Finance Committee asked prison officials this week how they would cut their spending by 10 percent if need be. The answer? There’s only one way. Close a prison.

Medicaid expansion program is critical too. 

Too many parolees will return to the joint unless the two-year budget funds their new health insurance under the Medicaid expansion program. Case managers are good about helping  offenders apply for this coverage so they have it when they make release. In the old days a person left prison with a two-week supply of meds and no money to refill their prescriptions. That was a formula for recidivism.

Two more budget hearings on Mar. 9

If you miss the hearing this week, the House Finance Committee will hold two more budget hearings on Monday, Mar. 9, both starting at 5 p.m. One is in Derry Town Hall at 14 Manning Street in Derry. The other is in Kennett High School at 409 Eagle's Way in North Conway. You can also email comments to every House Finance member at:

Some helpful tips 

The governor's budget is actually two bills, House BIll 1 and House Bill 2. 

Arrive early to sign a pink card saying you wish to testify. Then wait to be called on.

Bring a book, a laptop or some knitting, because many people will speak before you do.

Provide written testimony if you can, one typed page at most with 24 copies.

That said, always ad lib your testimony from brief notes. Keep it to 90 seconds or less.

Avoid repeating things that others have said. 

You can sign a blue committee sheet to show your support for the budget without speaking.

By Chris Dornin, founder, CCJR,