Recent news stories regarding the Department of Corrections point to the NH legislature’s continued refusal to responsibly fund state services. Earlier this week, it was revealed that the DOC is recruiting volunteers to help with managing and filing prisoner records, which have piled up in boxes.
Underfunding leaves fewer workers to do the same amount of work; in the case of the DOC, fewer employees are actually doing even more work. That’s because while the number of staff has decreased, the number of inmates has increased. The DOC has more than 100 fewer employees now than it did at the start of this decade. The department can – and is – hiring new employees, but it simply can’t attract enough qualified candidates. Sadly, this is a scenario that is common across all state agencies – more work; fewer staff to fulfill the needs.
This is a problem that the legislature has created, one that has left the DOC so desperate for help that they are asking citizens to voluntarily help them in their day-to-day operations. In essence, they are inviting untrained, inexperienced volunteers to do the work of a previously paid trained state employee for free. This situation is a recipe for disaster. It jeopardizes the safety of both staff and inmates. It poses potential liability for the state if volunteers breach confidentiality regarding an inmate’s personal information; and it eliminates yet more paid state positions.
While it may be common practice for volunteers to serve on boards and commissions, tutor inmates, provide education and faith-based programs, it is not commonplace for citizen volunteers to perform the day-to-day tasks of paid employees. This is shameful and wrong on many levels.
If the legislature doesn’t start adequately funding state departments, it would be easy to see this level of desperation spreading to other state agencies. This is unacceptable.