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Advocates Call on Feds to Investigate Mental Health Policies at N.H. State Prison

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
In New Hampshire those deemed too dangerous to treat at the state mental hospital are sent to the Secure Psychiatric Unit located at the prison. It's a practice that has been going on for 30 years now.

A group of local and national advocates are calling on the federal government to investigate whether it’s unjust for people with a mental illness, who haven't been convicted of a crime, to be treated in a prison.

New Hampshire is one of only a few states that transfers individuals with a violent mental illness to the Department of Corrections, and it’s been doing so for more than three decades.

Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton, along with advocacy groups in Concord and Virginia, filed the complaint earlier this month.

To read the entire complaint scroll down below.

In the letter addressed to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the parties state that housing people who’ve never committed a crime in prison is unconstitutional – calling this practice “outrageous” and “seriously violating” one’s civil rights.

The letter asks the state to build a secure psychiatric unit outside prison grounds and transfer authority for this population from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Health and Human Services.

To read more of NHPR's coverage on this issue click here:

These recommendations were suggested by two different legislative study committees but not acted upon by the full legislature.  The complaint states those recommendations show the legislature will only act if the federal government steps in.

Cushing said he expects to hear a response from the federal government sometime this week.

Complaint Filed by Treatment Advocacy Center, Rep. Renny Cushing and American Friends Service Committee

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