Prison and the COVID Virus

Please let us know what you are hearing from your incarcerated loved ones about the coronavirus and what is happening inside the walls.

In jails and prisons across the country, concerns are rising of a coronavirus outbreak behind bars. We thought it was important that we reach out to you about the New Hampshire Prison System.  

These are challenging and scary times for all Americans.  The same concerns that you and I have are often magnified for those who reside (or who have loved ones) in cloistered facilities like nursing homes, jails and prisons.

Some may ask,  "Why should we even care about people in prison getting the virus?"  The reason is two fold: we care about the people behind the walls both DOC staff and inmate, and the people outside the walls representing the loved ones of the same staff and inmates.

We are delighted to share the DOC report that:  "As of 3-27-2020 we do not have any staff members or residents who have tested positive for COVID-19" 

CCJR represents hundreds of families with an incarcerated loved one or friend. Most inmates admit to being guilty of some or all of what they were convicted of and most agree they have made some tragic and horrific mistakes. 

What society forgets or simply ignores is that these forgotten individuals are also the beloved sons, daughters, husbands, wives and grandchildren of loving caring people. They are your neighbors, friends, perhaps even some in your family.  Many inmates are also parents who are loved and missed by children all across our Granite state. Children waiting and longing for their dad or mom to come home.

While never ignoring the pain and suffering that crime causes and acknowledging that some criminal acts are so offensive they are or seem to be unspeakable. The truth is that many, many people in jail or prison are good people, who have done bad things. Yes, some very bad things.  A large percentage of these have confessed and do regret their actions.  (Sadly, some do not).

Most incarcerated people are eventually released and return to society and a good portion of those never repeat the actions for which they were arrested or ever commit new criminal acts. This is a good thing.  People can and do change, and the past does not have to dictate the future.

There is also the genuine concern for the DOC staff and Correctional officers who work in these crowded facilities. They not only have families that care about them, but they directly work with your incarcerated loved ones.  It is imperative they are healthy when they go to work, and when they come out so not to further spread the virus either inside or outside the prison walls.

This virus pandemic is serious and it can kill. Especially for those in two high risk categories: (1) The elderly (many in prison are senior citizens), (2) those with disabilities or underlying health issues.  There are many in jail in prison that are in these two groups.

We all understand that inmates live in tight closed overcrowded spaces. Packed into a small cells and pods often with out enough soap or cleaning supplies. Families and inmates alike are very worried about this close proximity.   Inmates want to  separate and get away from others, but as one inmate stated, "You can't."

What steps is the NH DOC taking? 

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus all family visits have been suspended in NH prisons.  While this is an appropriate and necessary step that we support, separation from friends and loved ones increases family worry and concern.

During these weeks of separation mail is important but a phone call is the only personal life-line the family has with their loved one. We thank the Commissioner for implementing the following: Free phone calls to attorney phone numbers, and two free five (5) minute phone calls weekly for inmates. They recently posted that they are working on a video visitation option which would be such a blessing especially for those inmates with minor children.

While we have appreciated the guidelines and updates put out by the Department of Corrections, reports from inmates and loved ones seemingly contradict some of this information.

On March 23, 2020 we sent the email shown in black below to DOC Commissioner Helen Hanks to ask about some of these.  To date, we have not received a reply.

If you have any information about the issues stated below or any other concerns please let us know and please consider calling Commissioner Hanks and/or the Warden of the specific facility where your loved resides. You will find those addresses and phone numbers here and on  the DOC website.

Commissioner Helen Hanks.pdf353.69 KB