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Staffing struggles for new women’s prison

Jul 25, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

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.

The Legislature rejected a proposal from the Department of Corrections to begin hiring for the women’s prison this spring.  That would have allowed the officers to be trained and in place as soon as the new women’s prison was completed.

The Legislature also denied funding for twenty positions requested by the Department of Corrections in 2017.

All of that means the new women’s prison probably won’t be able to accept inmates until sometime later in 2018.

Does a staffing shortage open New Hampshire to a lawsuit?

Elliott Berry, an attorney with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, told the Union Leader the delay may motivate his office to reopen the lawsuit that led to the prison’s construction.  So long as New Hampshire does not have a fully-staffed women’s prison providing the same services as male prisoners receive, the state is arguably treating male and female prisoners unequally. 

Legislators argue staffing will meet needs

Lawmakers argue their funding for staffing is entirely adequate.  There are already 42 individuals working at the current women’s prison in Goffstown who will transfer to the prison in Concord.  There is funding for an additional 53 staff members to be hired over the next two years.

“That’s plenty. We looked at it pretty thoroughly and we did make some cuts, we did reduce the number down because they didn’t need them because they may open as late as April [2018].”

- Rep. Peter Leishman, member House Finance Committee 

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Are you concerned about staffing for the new women’s prison?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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