SEA Members Say New Facility Will Better Serve Inmates
The state officially broke ground this week on a new women’s prison facility in Concord, located directly behind the men’s prison, that will comply with a court order to provide adequate space for services for female inmates.
The Legislature authorized use of $38 million last year to build the facility after a group of female prisoners sued the state for failing to provide housing and services equal to male prisoners. Prison officials and employees were joined by Gov. Maggie Hassan and state legislators for the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, where the governor said the new facility will “restore fairness to our corrections system.”
The state has been using an old jail in Goffstown to house female prisoners on a “temporary basis” since the late 1980s under a court order. The condition of the temporary Goffstown facility, which the state rents for $250,000 a year, has deteriorated and staff are unable to provide adequate services to inmates. The new facility will have four buildings including a main unit, secure housing pods and indoor-outdoor visitation areas.
Nicole Plante, a sergeant at the women’s prison for 14 years, said having the new facility is a big deal for everyone in the facility.
“If you know the structure of the current building, it’s very small, so a lot of the classrooms are multi-purpose rooms,” Plante said. “So, everyday we have to find spots and move people around. It’s hard for the inmates because they don’t know where they’re going.”
“It helps staff morale, because we have no space either — we don’t have a formal break room,” she said, so staff eat lunch on the go. “This will provide inmates with more space and actual areas to conduct groups, like AA. And it makes things alot easier for staff because we don’t have to move things around or rearrange things.”
John Morin, a lieutenant at the men’s prison and the president of Chapter 255, was at the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday. He said the new facility will be a big step forward.
“This gives us the opportunity to comply with all of the lawsuits that have been filed,” Morin said. “We now have a facility that we own and can manage and not be limited as we are in Goffstown.”
Site work was set to begin on the facility this week and it’s expected to open by late 2016. You can read more about the new facility here.