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.
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.
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.
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
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. <https://www.citylab.com/authors/aviva-shen/>
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.
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: https://www.nhbr.com/female-inmates-in-new-hampshire/
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Interview in the Valley News, November 25, 2012, on the League's study: <http://www.vnews.com/search/2822007-95/women-prison-league-county>
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) <http://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/double_jeopardy.pdf>
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
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 2007 cohort <http://www.nh.gov/nhdoc/divisions/publicinformation/documents/2007_recidivism.pdf>
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 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.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.