Hassan: fund CHINS, build women’s prison

Gov. Maggie Hassan pledged in her recent budget address to bond a new prison for women because the state has neglected women prisoners for too long. Last year New Hampshire Legal Assistance filed an equal protection lawsuit over the alleged warehousing of women inmates at the Goffstown prison. New Hampshire is the only state where women inmates have a higher recidivism rate than men. 

“Like our men's prison,” Hassan said, “our women's prison must offer facilities that can provide the programs that help individuals safely move back into society when they have served their sentences. It is time, we cannot delay this any longer.”

Her budget speech was silent on the issue of for-profit incarceration, but she told the Concord Monitor last August that private prisons are wrong and also dangerous for inmates and the public. 

"The most awesome power that state government has is to lock people up and take away their freedom," she told the newspaper. "And I don't think you outsource that responsibility or power."

The gubernatorial budget would restore partial funding for the Children in Need of Services program that formerly helped delinquent and at-risk kids stay out of the Youth Development Center. The last legislature gutted this public safety program while reducing taxes. 

The new governor asked lawmakers to  maintain the three current drug crime task forces, restore two judgeships and bring back 15 of the 30 state trooper positions lawmakers axed two years ago. 

Unlike the recent Republican majority, Hassan would cover thousands of uninsured people under Medicaid through the federal Affordable Care Act, including many parolees and probationers now without health benefits. Indeed, officials hope they can expand substance abuse services and peer support programs for ex-offenders. 

Lindy Keller runs the federally funded Access to Recovery Program that hires people who are savvy about addiction to mentor former prisoners trying to stay clean and sober. She briefed  the Interagency Commission on Women Offenders about it this month. The good news? The program is working well, Keller said. The bad news? Its four-year grant has 18 months left. 

By Chris Dornin, founder, CCJR, 603-620-7946

“If the Affordable Care Act doesn’t cover substance Abuse Services,” Keller said, “we don’t know what we’ll do.”