Making Democracy Work

Women Incarcerated Study 2009 to present

State study of women incarcerated in New Hampshire

New Women's Prison opens April 17, 2018

Read the NH Dept. of Corrections press release here.

The League of Women Voters NH began our study of the issues facing women incarcerated in NH in 2009. We visited the county houses of correction, the women's prison in Goffstown, the women's "halfway house" at Shea Farm, drug courts. We interviewed many people and did research (some of which is available on our website.) Along with several other organizations we fought the proposal for a privatized women's prison and won, then advocated for a new prison with improved education and rehabilitative services on a par with those at the men's prisons in NH. Finally the new NH Correctional Facility for Women is open in Concord. The women moved in on April 17, 2018. The old Goffstown facility will be turned back to Hillsborough county for conversion or dismantling as they see fit.

New Women's Prison Has Opening Ceremony March 26, 2018

League president Liz Tentarelli proudly represented the League of Women Voters at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women in Concord. It was a grand day to consider the improved rehabilitative and educational opportunities that the new building and dedicated staff will be able to offer.

When the women are transferred from the current prison in Goffstown this spring, the Goffstown facility will be closed, returned to Hillsboro county to do as it sees fit.

NH incarceration rate 4th lowest in nation

Jun 04, 2018 Report by Citizens Count NH

According to a new report, New Hampshire has the fourth lowest rate of incarceration in the U.S.

In 2017 New Hampshire had 199 people incarcerated per 100,000 state residents. That was a 5% decrease from last year, and a 9% decrease compared to ten years ago.

There are several reasons for a falling prison population. For one, there has been a movement to increase alternatives to incarceration for some offenders. For example, New Hampshire drug courts allow drug offenders to complete treatment rather than go to prison.

New Hampshire also has a lower crime rate than it did a decade ago, according to data from the FBI.

Massachusetts had the lowest incarceration rate in the U.S. in 2017, at 134 per 100,000. Maine came in 2nd, Rhode Island 11th, Vermont 12th, and Connecticut 25th. Louisiana came in last place, with the high incarceration rate of 720 people per 100,000 state residents.

The report comes from the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for criminal justice reform.

Drug Court in NH 2017

Read this article in the August 13, 2017, Union Leader about the success of one of the newer drug courts in NH, the Hillsborough county North drug court. League supports drug courts as an effective alternative to incarceration, as a result of our 2009-2012 study. Click here for the article.

This Concord Monitor article of August 19, 2017, reports that Merrimack County's drug court will open in September and summarizes the status of drug courts in the other counties. Click here to read the article

"out on bail"

How does bail (or bond) work in NH for pre-trial defendants? Read this January 2017 article in NHBar Assn newsletter. Click here for the article.

New trends nationally in pre-trial use of bail for low-risk offenders. Read Aviva Shen's Oct. 19, 2017 article on what New Orleans has attempted. <>

In 2018 the NH Legislature passed a bail reform bill, which is being tweaked in 2019. The goal is to keep non-violent offenders with limited resources from being sent to county jail for lack of bail, thus saving the counties money and the offenders with their homes/jobs while they await trial.

Study updates

May 2018: The NH Women's Foundation has released an updated study of women incarcerated in NH. The report is 11 pages, can be found at this website:

The NH Business Review in May 2018 published some highlights of the study with a report on the opening of the new women's correctional facility in Concord. Read the article here:

Just found this Chronological History of the Dept of Corrections in NH.

Two reports with a national perspective are of interest.

Updated statistics about women incarcerated in the US. Includes details about the number of women incarcerated in smaller counties (such as most of those in NH), which have "increased 31-fold from 1970 to 2014." One reason may be that larger cities have more resources for care for poor residents struggling with mental health issues. Click here to open the 2-page pdf file

In mid-August 2016 the federal government came to the same conclusion that League reached in 2013: private prisons are a bad thing. The federal government will not renew its contracts with private prisons when they expire. Click her to open the one-page article.

Drug Court Graduation

March 8, 2015 Read the Valley News article written by Bob Gasser, one of the founders of the successful Grafton county drug court, that explains the operation of the court and the increase in women who complete the process. Click to read the article (Related article below.)

The Grafton County Drug Court, which allowed the League study committee incredible access several years ago to their process, had a graduation ceremony at the Grafton Court in Haverhill on Nov. 17, 2014. This is the first graduation of the court that has more females than males successfully completing the program that focuses on treatment and changing behaviors as an alternative to a felony sentence. Recent work showed that female drug offenders often need gender-specific protocols to be successful, so this graduation is a milestone. The League's congratulations to the women and men who have turned their lives around.

Transitional Housing Report 2013

November 2013: this report done for the NH legislature reports on the status of the four transitional housing/work units. Shea Farm is the unit for women who are within 6 months of release. While living at Shea Farm the women seek jobs and pay room and board, as a transition to life after release. Download the pdf

Update 2018: Until the opening of the new women's correctional facility in Concord, Shea Farm also housed medium security women as "overflow" from the Goffstown prison. Those women have now been moved to the Concord facility, lessening crowding and allowing them more opportunity for programing at the prison. The remaining minimum security women at Shea Farm are seeking work or working in the community and maintaining the unit.

Articles & DOC publications

LWVNH Incarceration Position adopted April 2012 This position was reached by member consensus, based on our extensive 3-year study of the impact of women incarcerated in NH. The study included visits to the county houses of correction, the women's prison and halfway house, interviews with state and county corrections officials and with inmates, presentations by court officials and others involved in alternative sentencing including several visits to the Grafton county drug court, parole and probation state officials, and extensive reading of current publications about women offenders, both in NH and throughout the country. From this position the League is advocating for improvements in the treatment of women offenders, with a goal of reduced recidivism and improved futures for the women and society.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Some of our reports to members during our study process can be found on the Publications page as part of our NH Voter newsletters.


Recidivism report from the NH Dept of Corrections. This report details the 2014 cohort, the 1,280 people who were released from prison during that year and their recidivism rates and reasons for recidivism over the following 3 years. Read the report on the NH Dept. of Corrections website.

New, February 2018: Merrimack County is set to open its newly renovated community corrections center On Feb. 26, 2018. It seems to be modeled on the successful TRAILS program that Sullivan county began perhaps 8 years ago. We look forward to similar improved outcomes for released county offenders. Click here for the pdf of the Concord Monitor article.

New, February 2018: This report prepared by the NH Women's Foundation updates the research on women incarcerated in NH. It is titled "NH's Incarcerated Women: 2018 Snapshot." Click here for the pdf.

Report of the NH Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission on the Unequal Treatment of women offenders in NH prison (October 2011)

Interview in the Valley News, November 25, 2012, on the League's study: <>

The two articles below were the starting point for our study:

Women Behind Bars: a study by the NH Women's Policy Institute [Download the pdf file]

Double Jeopardy: a study by the NH Commission on the Status of Women (2004) <>

More recent articles and material we used and continue to refer to:

Study on the possible privatization of prisons in NH, 2012, by Prof. Elaine Rizzo An Assessment of the Risks and Benefits of Prison Privatization

Research paper done by two students at St. Anselm's College, with the encouragement of the Citizens Advisory Board of the NH Correctional Facility for Women, spring 2015. Issues Facing Women Offenders Transitioning from Prison

Justice Reinvestment Analyses 2010, report of the Justice Center for the Council of State Governments

Report on Women Participating in Drug Court (Grafton County recommendations) Dec. 2012 Downlaod the pdf file

Sentencing In NH [Download the pdf file]

Court System in NH [Download the pdf file]

Recidivism in NH report on the 2010 cohort

Recidivism in NH report on the 2008 cohort

Recidivism in NH report on 2007 cohort <>

Recidivism in NH report on 2006 cohort [Download the pdf file]

Recidivism in NH report on 2004 cohort [Download the pdf file]

Reducing Recidivism Study: 2009, a national study [Download the pdf file]

NH Department of Corrections Report 2013

NH Dept of Corrections annual report 2014 The recidivism report for the 2009 cohort (3 yr study of those released in 2009) is on pp. 16-18 of this annual report. Happily the recidivism rate for women continues to decline: 39.7% in this most recent cohort.

NH Dept. of Corrections annual report for 2015. The recidivism report for the 2010 cohort (3 yr study of those released in 2010) is on pp. 20-22 of this annual report. Again the return to prison rate for women offenders has dropped; in spite of crowding and overworked corrections officers, the women's prison is doing much to help women prepare for life after incarceration.

Incarceration of Juveniles

March 2013 news item--somewhat related to our study. This comes from the NH Child Advocacy Network, of which we are coalition members:

"Locking Up Fewer Kids: New Hampshire and the Nation See Steady Decline in Youth Incarceration

America's rate of locking up youth has dropped by more than 40 percent over a 15-year period, with no decrease in public safety, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

A new KIDS COUNT data snapshot, Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States, reports that the number of young people in correctional facilities on a single day fell to 70,792 in 2010, from a high of 107,637 in 1995. This downward trend, documented in data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, has accelerated in recent years.

New Hampshire's rate of incarcerated youth fell from 186 per 100,000 in 1997 to 97 per every 100,000 youth (a drop of 69 children) and is fourth in the nation for lowest incarceration rates.

The report recommends alternative approaches to youth incarceration, including community based programs. "Locking up young people has lifelong consequences (...)," said Bart Lubow director of the Foundation's Juvenile Justice Strategy Group.

"Our decreasing reliance on incarceration presents an exceptional opportunity to respond to juvenile delinquency in a more cost-effective and humane way - and to give these youth a real chance to turn themselves around." Contact us: 2 Delta Drive,Concord NH 03301 603-225-2264/

Incarceration Program

If your community or church group would like to learn more about the issues facing women offenders in NH, including what the public can do to improve the prospects for the future, study leaders will happily bring a presentation to you. Contact Liz Tentarelli via the Contact Us page of this website to arrange for a presentation.

prison privatization bill 2013

The League supported NH House Bill 443 as amended, which bans the privatization of NH's prisons. The care and supervision of inmates is, we believe, a state responsibility that must not be shifted to a for-profit entity. The amendment does allow for emergency placement of inmates into private prisons, on a temporary basis, if the governor declares the situation an emergency (such as a fire that necessitates closing a part of a prison for extensive repairs).

This bill passed the NH House in spring 2013.

After that it was announced that plans to privatize the NH prison system were cancelled. The building of a new prison for women, to replace the Goffstown facility, was included in the 2013-14 capital budget. The prison will be on land in Concord already owned by the state as part of the men's prison site.