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. 

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FILE

The number of prison inmates testing positive for drugs in New Hampshire is going down.

Around this time last year, 27 percent of drug tests came back positive. New data from the Department of Corrections says now, that's down to 11 percent.

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The head of the state’s Department of Corrections is stepping down.

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A former Portsmouth investment adviser will serve 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty for defrauding a client of $2 million dollars. The high-profile case had been scheduled for trial this month.

CREDIT CREDIT MIKECOGH VIA FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

An attorney representing a group of female prisoners says he's considering reactivating a lawsuit against the state after further delays in the opening of a new women's prison in Concord.

File photo

Under U.S. Supreme Court decisions, five inmates serving life sentences for crimes committed as juveniles in New Hampshire are getting a chance at eventual release.

The rulings affect five men sentenced to life in New Hampshire. They are Eduardo Lopez, Robert Dingman, Robert Tulloch, Michael Soto and Steven Spader. Altogether, they were convicted in the deaths of four men and three women who were fatally shot or stabbed between 1991 and 2009.

Update: Manchester City Solicitor, Tom Clark, announced his resignation Friday afternoon. 

Manchester city officials met with the city solicitor and the attorney general’s office Friday to discuss an investigation into Manchester City Solicitor’s office. The meeting was held to discuss quote “corrective action” and “potential terminations.” None of the parties present agreed to discuss the meeting.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

The New Hampshire parole board plays a key role in the state’s criminal justice system. Its nine members decide which inmates get out on parole, and which parolees return to prison. Although parole hearings are open to the public, they take place with little oversight or public scrutiny. And, unlike most legal proceedings, they can be surprisingly unrefined affairs.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Nine months ago, Joyce Chance left a refugee camp in Uganda where she had spent the last eleven years. Chance, who was born in Congo, boarded a plane with her two kids, and came to the United States.

A refugee resettlement agency in Concord, New Hampshire picked them up at the airport, and moved them into a one-room apartment.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Manchester Bishop Peter Libasci spent an hour visiting immigrants detained at the Strafford County Jail in Dover on Monday.

The decision to visit the jail came after the Bishop  met with a parish in Manchester on Sunday with many Hispanic congregants. That Parish, St Anne-St. Augustin, had sought to protect undocumented immigrants living in the neighborhood by proclaiming itself a, quote, “sanctuary church.”

The Bishop responded last month with a letter urging Catholic churches against such proclamations.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

A couple years ago, Manchester police lieutenant Nicole LeDoux and two colleagues decided to crunch some numbers. They found that in a single year, 400 Manchester kids had been at either domestic violence incidents or overdoses when police were called.  LeDoux is a fast talker who oversees the juvenile and domestic violence units. “I remember sitting,” she said, “and being like ‘man, that’s a lot of kids. How do we deal with that?’” 

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

For parents serving time behind bars, remaining close with their kids can be difficult.

But one nonprofit works to help connect inmates in New Hampshire with their children simply through reading.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

New Hampshire correctional officers have declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the Governor’s office.  The Teamsters Union, which represents the officers, say the Governor isn’t doing enough to end years of excessive overtime for staff in the state’s prisons.   

What the parties do seem to agree on is that prisons are critically understaffed. At his budget address last month, Governor Chris Sununu said “we are going to be aggressive and fully fund our corrections system to end the pattern of forced overtime and personnel shortfalls.”

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

In March of 2016, 26 year-old Jeffrey Pendleton died inside a Manchester, New Hampshire jail. Pendleton was a homeless African-American man charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana. He remained in the Valley Street jail while awaiting trial because he couldn't afford to pay $100 in bail.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Michael Treadwell sat at the back of a courtroom.  In a windbreaker and khaki pants, he leaned over his work boots, elbows on his knees. At first, I thought he was chewing gum – a bold choice in a courtroom.  When we began to talk, I discovered it wasn't gum Michael was chewing.  It was his own gums. Michael doesn't have any teeth.

Emily Corwin for NHPR

As immigration officials ramp up deportation of new classes of unauthorized immigrants, more residents and visitors without documents fear run-ins with police.

On New Hampshire's diverse Southern border, a traffic stop in one town could lead to very different consequences than the same kind of stop one town over.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

There’s to be no more kissing, and no hugs lasting more than three seconds in New Hampshire’s prison visiting rooms as of this week. The policy change is part of an effort to curb rampant drug smuggling into the prison.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Updated on Jan. 13, 2017 at 5:07 PM:

Visiting hours will return to normal on Saturday at the state prison for men. Inmate visits were halted earlier this week after a series of likely drug overdoses left one man dead.

In the meantime, the department says it is investigating the type, source, and entry point of the drugs that caused the following three incidents.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Chris Webber was in jail on a couple hundred dollars cash bail the day his daughter was born. He wasn't there because of his trespassing and resisting arrest convictions. He was there because he misses court dates, and he's poor.

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It’s been exactly one year since the New Hampshire Courts began a major change in how felonies are prosecuted, and the state's Judicial Council has delivered it's first progress report.

Traditionally, each felony offense had to make its way through two courts: local courts, with police prosecutors, then superior court, with county prosecutors, before it could be resolved. Many say this means cases cost more and take longer to resolve than they need to.

Courtroom One Gavel
Joe Gratz / Flickr Creative Commons

Tuesday would have marked the first day of Manchester’s new drug court, which gives drug-crime offenders struggling with addiction a chance to get treatment instead of incarceration. But, according to the Union Leader, the opening has been delayed one week, due to a lack of participants.

In June of last year, the city’s commissioners denied funding for the program.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

In Manchester, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is partnering with state and local agencies in a new effort to curtail both the supply of illicit opioids and the demand for them.

On the demand side, the DEA program is starting young. Tuesday, students from Parker-Varney and Green Acres Elementary Schools danced to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” Cristine Dhimos is the regional manager of the after school dance program. 

“I think one of the best things is the kids have an opportunity to be in a safe place for one hour,” she says.

  State and city officials will meet with a representative of the US Drug Enforcement Administration Tuesday in Manchester to discuss the Agency’s new strategy to address drug crimes in the city. 

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