Coordinating the New Hampshire Corrections System

Standardization and Coordination Policy Options to Curb Recidivism Rates of the Mentally Ill and Those with Substance Abuse Problems
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 0809-08
Monday, May 18, 2009

This report was written in order to address the potential benefits of coordinating the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (DOC) across all levels of government, from county to state. It analyzed this possibility through the lens of the overflowing prison populations, particularly the large number of inmates with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems. The paper initially describes the current condition of the NH DOC in the midst of the national corrections conditions. The paper then discusses four major policy areas: mental health reform and treatment, correctional alternatives, technological solutions, and innovative partnerships.

Within all of these policy recommendation areas, there are several themes that should be noted. A common and critical component of each section is the lack of standardization of data. This is a major problem found consistently throughout the NH county jail systems and is representative of the larger coordination and technological changes that need to be addressed. The second major theme is that the NH DOC does not have extra funds to spare. Several of our suggestions are small steps towards a goal of improved coordination that will produce better outcomes (reduced recidivism rates) and increase efficiency.

This paper was written in the hopes of having a true impact on the NH DOC in planning for future programs and methodology. It employs reports from the federal government, industry professionals, and leading nonpartisan think tanks that include substantive data, not merely anecdotal evidence. We also interviewed several organizations that were grass-roots, non-profit organizations, such as NAMI Indiana, and drew models for procuring donated computer equipment from private donors.

This report was completed following our presentation to The Inter-branch Criminal and Juvenile Justice Council’s Subcommittee on Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System. Therefore, the report reflects some of the suggestions put forth by Corrections Commissioner William Wren after the presentation. This should be noted when looking at the slides from the presentation made on Monday May 18, 2009. The two sections that show the data since the presentation are the sections involving Correctional Alternatives and Innovative Partnerships, which will hopefully be particularly interesting to those who attended the presentation in Concord.