Bill seeks to address patients in prison

May 25, 2018
state prison

On Wednesday, May 23 the New Hampshire House and Senate passed a bill that requires the Secure Psychiatric Unit at the state prison to get accredited as a “behavioral health facility.”

About the SPU

The Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) was built to house prison inmates with severe mental health issues. However, any New Hampshire resident with mental illness who “present[s] a serious likelihood of danger to himself or to others” may be committed to the SPU without committing a crime.

Should the Legislature have oversight of rules for inmates at the state prison?

Oct 29, 2017

A House committee is currently considering HB 192, a bill that would give the Legislature oversight of rules at the state prison.

Most state agencies have to submit proposed rules to a legislative committee for approval. The Department of Corrections does not.

A violation of due process?

Chris Dornin, cofounder of Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, helped craft HB 192. He argues that many rules and procedures in the Department of Corrections (DOC) deprive inmates of their right to due process.

Should NH privatize the state prison system?

Sep 11, 2017
private prisons

Several times this year, New Hampshire’s state prison system has made headlines— most recently, with the resignation of Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn in late August. The Department of Corrections is in the midst of a staffing crisis, which will likely delay the opening of the new women’s prison in Concord. Some believe New Hampshire’s state penal system could be better managed by a private company.

Staffing struggles for new women’s prison

Jul 25, 2017
women's prison

In response to a lawsuit in 2012, the New Hampshire Legislature approved a new women’s prison in Concord.  That prison will be completed this fall, but the Department of Corrections expects it will be a challenge to fully staff the prison.

A shortage of corrections officers

New Hampshire already has a shortage of corrections officers.  This is due to a combination of relatively low salaries and high turnover.

Should people with a violent mental illness who have not been convicted of a crime be treated in prison?

Aug 19, 2016

In New Hampshire, individuals with a violent mental illness are transferred to the Department of Corrections and treated at the Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) at the prison in Concord.

New Hampshire is one of only several states with this policy, which has been in practice for more than 30 years.

Those who support the policy cite public safety and health concerns and argue that the SPU provides the best care possible for this population.

Complaint over patients in prison

Aug 12, 2016

Rep. Renny Cushing and three other patient advocates have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over the practice of housing some mental health patients in the Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) of the state prison.

In New Hampshire, an individual with mental illness who “present[s] a serious likelihood of danger to himself or to others” may be committed to the secure psychiatric unit in the state prison without committing a crime. 

Should NH prisons be air conditioned?

Jul 22, 2016

In 2010, 30 solitary confinement inmates of NH state prison went on hunger strike to protest extreme heat. The inmates were kept in cells with windows that could not open, without air conditioning, and were not permitted to go outside even on very hot summer days.

More recently, in Texas, the state corrections system has faced lawsuits related to the temperatures inside state jails.

Body scanners approved for prisons

Jun 16, 2016

On Wednesday, June 15 Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill that includes $1.1 million for state prisons and $740,000 for county jails to purchase body scanners.

All inmates, employees, and visitors entering a correctional facility will have to pass through the scanners, which can be used to detect smuggled drugs and other contraband.

DNA samples from patients in prison?

Apr 02, 2016

Next Wednesday, April 6 the New Hampshire House of Representatives will vote on a bill to require DNA samples from some civilly committed individuals with mental illness.

The Senate already passed the bill, SB 339.

Supporters of the bill argue that it closes a loophole that exempts offenders found not guilty by reason of insanity from the requirement to provide DNA to law enforcement.

Limits for solitary confinement?

Jan 08, 2016

Several bills related to solitary confinement are being considered this month by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

HB 1311 would limit the use of solitary confinement to periods of less than 6 weeks, and allow it to be used only in cases where the behavior of an inmate makes him or her a danger to themselves or others. The bill also prohibits the use of solitary confinement for minors or those with serious mental illness or impairment.

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