Prison and Justice Reporting

An ongoing series of stories on New Hampshire's criminal justice system, with a focus on the experience of those people moving through the state's corrections system. 

Visit N.H. Bar Foundation at nhbarfoundation.org.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire has ruled that judges in trial courts can set cash bail for defendants at an unattainably high amount, as long as the court deems that the defendant is a flight risk.

In an opinion released Friday, the court agreed with the Attorney General’s office that setting high cash bail in those cases is justified, even if the defendant isn’t also deemed a danger to the public.

Via Dartmouth College

Governor Chris Sununu has named a former district court judge who also worked as a prosecutor and public defender to lead New Hampshire's adult parole board.

Jennifer Sargent joined the parole board last month. On January 15, she'll succeed former House Speaker Donna Sytek as its chair.

The board typically meets a few days each month and holds close to 2000 individual hearings a year.

In a statement, Sununu said he was confident Sargent's varied experience will "help usher in a new era at the Parole Board."

FILE

 

A former prosecutor fired by Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Conlon is suing Conlon for wrongful termination.

Earlier this year, news broke about a painting stolen from an art gallery in Meredith. There aren’t many art heists in New Hampshire, which got us interested in learning more about the artist who made the painting.

It turns out his life story is a remarkable one, with detours through the state prison and a 1988 exhibition that would reshape his life.  

Photos via the candidates' campaign websites

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig is running for re-election next month. Her challenger, former Republican state representative Victoria Sullivan, says Mayor Craig has failed to tackle concerns about homelessness, crime and quality of life. While the two candidates disagree over the nature of the challenges facing the city, public safety is on the minds of many voters this campaign season.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Law enforcement and civil liberties groups have been debating changes to New Hampshire’s bail system for months. Now, a group tasked with studying the issue says any changes should wait until more information is available about the actual impact of a recent round of reforms to the system.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

 

A Manchester man charged with attempted murder at a Pelham church waived his right to appear before a judge Tuesday and is being held without bail in the Hillsborough County jail.

Dale Holloway, 37, is facing charges for allegedly shooting Bishop Stanley Choate as Choate was officiating a wedding. A second bullet grazed the bride, who was not seriously injured. 

Emily Corwin / NHPR

The Univsersity of New Hampshire begins a lecture series Tuesday that will explore mass incarceration in New Hampshire and in the U.S.

Donna Perkins is an associate professor of justice studies and UNH, and Blair Rowlett is the director of the Strafford County Mental Health Court. NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Perkins and Rowlett about defining criminality.

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

 

The New Hampshire Department of Justice is defending its decision last week to take over criminal cases at the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office, citing what it calls longstanding "systemic problems” with leadership.

Hillsborough County Attorney's office

Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Conlon is still on the job, despite an announcement last Friday that the Attorney General was taking over Conlon's office.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald sent a letter on Friday explaining that he was sending attorneys on Monday to oversee the Hillsborough County Attorney's office after "repeated failures" by Conlon to improve oversight of his staff and communication with local police departments.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Senator Maggie Hassan and other lawmakers want to send more federal money to police to combat the opioid crisis.

A bill called the POWER Act would help state and local agencies buy portable electronic devices that screen and immediately identify chemicals including opioids and methamphetamines.

Hassan says right now, police have to rely on specific labs to identify the chemicals in seized substances, and it can take weeks to get results back.  

This is the fourth and final episode of “The Rules Are Different Here,” a four-part series on mass incarceration in New Hampshire. Listen to the full series here.

Annie Wrenn is middle-aged with blond hair she wears with bangs. She’s a little over 5 feet tall. And on first sight, you’d never guess she’s a prison guard.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Tobias Tarr spent the afternoon of June 17, 2017 tending to the garden at a homeless shelter in Keene.

That evening, still covered in dirt, Tarr found himself in an awkward situation: a resident of the facility had arrived home drunk and agitated.

“I sat with him on the couch and just calmed him down. He had it in his head that he wanted to beat somebody up upstairs,” says Tarr.

Justine Paradis

Three years ago, Samuel and Rachel purchased a wooden crate manufactured by inmates at the New Hampshire State Prison, but they wondered: was it ethically made? 

This is the third episode in our four-part series on mass incarceration in New Hampshire. Explore the full series here. 

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Natacha Davis is juggling a lot these days. She’s living with her mom, raising her three kids, and training to become a recovery coach to help people overcome addiction.

On a recent evening, she was running out the door for an A.A. meeting in Nashua. As she grabbed her keys, she peered into a Puerto Rican plantain stew simmering on the stove.

“Mom is the food done yet?”

“Not yet!” Her mom answered.

“Alright Mom. I love you. I’ll be back,” Davis opened the door. “You heard me? I love you.”

Courtesy photo

 

Manchester Police Chief Carl Capano says he's rolling out a new way to grant paid days off to officers for exceptional service.

The policy, called "employee incentive days," will replace the practice of "chief days," which came under fire last year, when an internal audit revealed that police chiefs had rewarded officers with paid days off for nearly two decades without a clear system for doing so.

Part 2: One Month Out

Feb 22, 2019

This is the second episode of “The Rules Are Different Here,” a four-part series on mass incarceration in New Hampshire. Listen to the first installment, or explore the full series.

Cheryl Senter / NHPR

 

Inmates with substance use disorder will now have someone to help them get recovery services after they leave state prison.

The initiative was piloted in 2018 in the women's prison in Concord and is now expanding to the men's prison in Berlin.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Helen Hanks says re-entry coordinators are needed because so many people in prison are struggling with addiction and many are in recovery. They face a high chance of recidivism or overdosing post release.

History of Concord NH From the Original Grant in Seventeen Hundred and Twenty-Five to the Opening of the Twentieth Century

Bill Blanchard was just a kid when he first came into contact with law enforcement.

"Going Inside" is the first installment of a four-part series,"The Rules Are Different Here: A Series on New Hampshire's Prisons and Jails." The full series is available here.

History of Concord, New Hampshire, from the original grant in seventeen hundred and twenty-five to the opening of the twentieth century

What does mass incarceration look like in New Hampshire?

Appleswitch via Flickr Creative Commons

 

The ACLU of New Hampshire and the Union Leader Corporation have filed a right-to-know lawsuit against the town of Salem.

Brian Wallstin/NHPR

A federal jury on Tuesday found a former physician assistant guilty of participating in a kickback scheme involving fentanyl.

Christopher Clough of Dover was convicted of overprescribing the painkiller to patients in exchange for receiving compensation from the drug’s manufacturer.

Appleswitch via Flickr Creative Commons

Salem Police Chief Paul Donovan is resigning after an internal audit revealed widespread problems in the department.

The audit found the department mishandled investigations, failed to follow through with citizen complaints, and was inconsistent in timekeeping and pay.

Salem placed Donovan on leave for two days in August over disagreements with Town Manager Chris Dillon, but he had returned to his post despite ongoing disputes with the town.

Matty Ring/Flickr

The town of Salem has hired a “civilian administrator” to oversee ongoing improvements at the Salem Police Department after an audit identified significant problems there.

Brian Patullo, a former Chief of the Andover Police, has taken the new role of civilian administrator, which Town Manager Chris Dillon says will last “until most issues are addressed.”

Flickr, Courtesy of christopdesoto

 

The Conway Police Department is asking for funding to arm its officers with Taser guns.

 

Many police departments in New Hampshire already use Taser guns, which pause a suspect by stunning them with an electric shock.

 

Edward Wagner, Conway's Chief of Police, says changes in policing and conversations with Axon, the company selling the Tasers, have convinced him it's time for a change.

 

NHPR File Photo

 

A commission of criminal justice experts convened by lawmakers has issued its recommendations for how New Hampshire should implement bail reform.

Among other things, it recommends that the courts keep track of whether defendants commit new offenses while out on bail; that the state pay bail commissioner fees if the defendant is indigent; that victims generally not be required to testify at a bail hearing; and that the state adopt a text messaging system to remind defendants about their court date.

A Conval Regional High School student allegedly involved in a school shooting threat last week is being held without bond in a Manchester jail.

According to police, Anthony Wheeler of Antrim posted a picture on Snapchat last week of another Conval student dressed up like one of the Columbine school shooters and holding guns.

A caption read: "Don’t go to school on Wednesday."

Police have not revealed whether the guns in the photo were real, but all district schools were closed on Wednesday as a result.

A prison chaplain in Berlin is facing federal charges after prosecutors say he smuggled contraband into a federal correctional facility.

Joseph Buenviaji, 53, appeared in federal court in Concord on Thursday, where he faces bribery and contraband charges. 

File photo

Police are investigating the death of a woman last weekend in a Manchester jail. 

 

Deatrah Reilly, 32, was found dead in her jail cell on Saturday after an apparent suicide.

Her mother, Lorri Moore, says Reilly struggled with drug addiction and depression.

She was arrested on outstanding warrants, including for drug possession. 

 

"She was in Valley Street Jail," says Moore. "Everyone told me leave her there - it will help her, it will save her life."

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