Prisons

Courtesy Photo

Chris Rocket has been in prison for 19 years. His convictions are for second degree murder and robbery. The crimes, he says, were the result of an alcohol addiction.

His addiction to heroin and prescription drugs?

He got hooked on those while incarcerated at the state prison in Berlin.


New Hampshire Department of Corrections

  State corrections officials say a female inmate walked away from a Transitional Housing Unit in Concord, shortly before a male inmate who had also reportedly walked away was taken into custody.

The Department of Corrections says Christy Blondeau of Manchester had given permission for a two hour outing at 7 p.m. Friday, but did not return to the Shea Farm Transitional Housing Unit as scheduled. Officials placed her on walkaway status at about midnight.

Blondeau is serving a 1 ½ to 3 year sentence on a Forgery conviction.

Reconsidering N.H. Sentencing Laws

Apr 15, 2015
Thomas Hawk / Flickr/cc

Decades of a tough-on-crime approach brought mandatory minimum sentences that many now say are too costly – both in social terms and dollars, as prison populations have soared. State lawmakers recently considered removing these for certain nonviolent offenders. But some are urging caution on behalf of public safety.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

While addiction and related crimes are on the rise in Grafton County, the county’s Drug Court is struggling to fill enough seats.  That’s even though clients who get a drug court offer can avoid incarceration, get access to affordable high-level addiction-treatment programs, and often have their conviction vacated after completion.

It's Lonely In Here

Logan Shannon / NHPR

When you hear about prison work programs, you think license plates or chain gangs – not farm-raised Tilapia, or buffalo milk cheese. On today’s show, artisanal foods and other the under-the-radar products made by prisoners for next to nothing.

Plus, a project aims to solve two global problems by turning sewage into drinkable water, and why revulsion may prevent it from becoming a reality. 

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments. 

Granger Meador via flickr Creative Commons / flic.kr/p/cfu46W

When you hear about prison work programs, you think license plates or chain gangs – not buffalo milk cheese. On today’s show, we’ll look into the artisanal foods and other under-the-radar, prisoner-made products that line the shelves of stores across the country.

Then, in 1939 Rhett Butler stunned audiences when he uttered the now famous line in Gone with the Wind: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” We’ll talk about the history of onscreen cursing, and how four letter words have come out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

New Hampshire's new $38 million prison – which is being built in Concord as I write this – may be too small.

 The fact that the state’s prison population has been growing steadily is well known. What’s new is a striking increase in the number of female inmates in state prison over the last six months. It’s 13 percent higher compared to 2013. That’s roughly four times the rate of increase among male inmates. 

Reporter Graeme Wood Responds To Critics

Sep 23, 2014
Thomas Hawk via flickr Creative Commons

On September 21st, Shane Bauer wrote an article for Mother Jones, How Can The Atlantic Give Us 5,000 Words on Prison Life Without Interviewing Prisoners? Bauer called out Graeme Wood and his article for The Atlantic, How Gangs Took Over Prisons, for not interviewing any prisoners, as well as for his depiction of solitary confinement c

Still Burning via flickr Creative Commons

California’s Pelican Bay state prison houses gang leaders high on the food chain. Contrary to popular myth, they run the joint like a well-oiled machine, with chains-of-command, communication networks, even a system for intake.

On today’s show: a glimpse into the surprisingly orderly life behind bars, and the influence of gangs on life on the outside.

Also today, an African-American woman says it’s time to reject the notion that beating kids is part of black culture.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.

Cheryl Senter / NHPR

Two children will spend the day with their mother who is serving time in a New Hampshire prison as part of program to strengthen families and reduce recidivism.

The program started in 2012 to give children a chance to paint, play games and dine with their incarcerated moms or dads while also attending a traditional two-week summer camp.

The program had to be scaled back this year when the overnight camp in Penacook closed for the summer due to a bed bug infestation.

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections is holding a job fair on Thursday in Concord.

The event is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Howard Recreation Center Auditorium at 129 Pleasant St.

Participants also can meet with Department of Corrections staff at The Teamsters at 53 Goffstown Road in Manchester earlier that day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They can provide a snapshot of day-to-day life in the corrections field.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Overtime Exhaustion

For more than a decade, New Hampshire prisons have been under enormous pressure.  The prison population has gone up as staff numbers have gone down.  Aside from the inmates, few feel the consequences as acutely as the state’s correctional officers.

Corrections Sergeant Justin Jardine represents prison officers with the State Employees’ union. “I'm working approximately 3 double shifts a week, so 64 hours a week,”says Jardine.  Younger officers, Jardine says, work 4 or 5 double shifts -- around 80 hours a week.  

various brennemans via Flickr Creative Commons

Prove it, innate, survival of the fittest, organic… scientific terminology is part of our everyday language, but are we using the terms correctly? Today we’re testing the theory of misusing scientific terms. And, with the state breaking ground on a new women’s prison next month, we’ll consider whether the specific needs of female inmates can be addressed by re-thinking prison design. Then, mental illness creates a stigma that is almost impossible to erase, even for sports celebrities. We wonder: why isn’t Delonte West in the NBA?

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.


Sara Plourde / NHPR

Increasingly, corrections officials are looking to statistics to inform their decisions around all aspects of prison practices. As NHPR's Emily Corwin recently reported, inmates’ gender and trauma statistics are helping inform the design of the state’s new women's prison in Concord.

While you’re binging on new episodes of Orange is The New Black this week, here in New Hampshire, architects are working with the Department of Corrections to design a real $38 million state prison for women. 

And unlike most women’s prisons around the country, this 224-bed prison is being designed for the particular needs of women inmates.  To find out more about what New Hampshire's new prison may be like, NHPR visited a women's prison designed by the same architect, and with the same principles -- in Windham, Maine. 

Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn

Apr 3, 2014
unionleader.com

We're sitting down with Corrections Commissioner, William Wrenn. We'll talk about the national trend toward prison reform, as well as the issues in front of his department, including plans for the new women's prison, and the state of New Hampshire's halfway house system.

GUEST:

  • William Wrenn - New Hampshire Department of Corrections Commissioner
George Oates, Nathan Fixler & Chris Griffith via Flickr Creative Commons

Today on Word of Mouth, we delve into the consequences of solitary confinement. Then a trip to the Internet reveals that cyberspace is chock full of fakes and fails; Photoshopped images can quickly become viral and shared as authentic. But history is full of giant hoaxes, too, as we learn from Nate Dimeo of the Memory Palace Podcast.  Then we hear about The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure,  which isn’t one of those Darwin Awards-style coffee table books. It’s a real government document that catalogs bribery, graft, and other infractions in the Department of Defense. Finally, NHPR's Sean Hurley visited the Jackson biathlon range - the only dedicated course in New Hampshire - to find out more about this unusual sport.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments.

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky  from Crime and Punishment

In this fearless edition of Word of Mouth, we take new steps and utter new words about crime, punishment and everything in between.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Nearly 24 years after the courts first ordered a new facility for female inmates, the New Hampshire House has approved a capital budget with $38 million set aside for a 224-bed women's prison in Concord.

A class action lawsuit is driving lawmakers to act now.

Thirty years ago, Corrections Corporation of America opened its first private prison. As demand for border patrol increased over the decades, so has its earnings. Last year, CCA brought in $1.7 billion dollars in revenue – a quarter of which came from government agencies enforcing immigration policy and incarcerating non-citizens in the US. Lee fang is Reporting Fellow with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. He probed the connection between prison profits and stiffer immigration policies and came up with some unsettling answers.

Thirty years ago, Corrections Corporation of America opened its first private prison. As demand for border patrol increased over the decades, so has its earnings. Last year, CCA brought in $1.7 billion dollars in revenue – a quarter of which came from government agencies enforcing immigration policy and incarcerating non-citizens in the US. Lee fang is Reporting Fellow with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

2013 is a year in which New Hampshire Commissioner of Corrections, William Wrenn will face some considerable challenges.  Facilities are packed, jobs have been cut, there's the on going problem of recidivism, and a huge debate over the privatization or partial privatization of prisons.  Add to that, a lawsuit filed last August against the State suggesting that women inmates aren't receiving the same treatment and access to services as their male counterparts.  Today we sit down with Commissioner Wrenn about this and take your calls.

Guest:

Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via Flickr

This year, there’s been a lot more talk about New Hampshire going the route of as the Governor and others explore the idea of private companies running our corrections institutions.  But questions remain -- about the rehabilitation of prisoners, inmate and employee safety, and whether, in the end, the cost savings would be enough to make this shift worthwhile.

Guests:

Harris Kenny: policy analyst, Reason Foundation

A series of fatal riots inside Mexican prisons last week and a deadly blaze at a penitentiary in Honduras are prompting calls for major penal reform in Central America.

Violence at three different penitentiaries in Mexico last week left 48 inmates dead, while the inferno in Honduras earlier this month killed 360 prisoners.

These deadly events underscore the problems of corruption, overcrowding, prison gangs and crumbling infrastructure that prisons face throughout the region.