Educational programs score successes at Belknap County Jail


LACONIA — During a visit to the Belknap County Jail Friday, state Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) was reminded of the shortcomings of the facility and shown the promise of the new community corrections center by his host, Superintendent Keith Gray.
In particular, Hosmer learned that rehabilitative programs, which will be the centerpiece of the new facility, are already achieving success at the county jail.
Gray said that with only one room that can be used for classes, and then only when it is not being put to other uses, the department is hard pressed to offer programming to address substance abuse and prepare inmates for employment. The community corrections center, he said, will include six additional rooms for providing therapeutic and educational programming while some space in the existing facility will be converted to serve similar purposes.
When Hosmer asked about the rate of recidivism, Gray replied that it is near 65 percent, which he said reflected the dearth of rehabilitative programming, including treatment for substance abuse.
"We haven't really done much until now," Gray said.
Tamara McGonagle, the program director at the Department of Corrections, who directs programming for inmates, presented data indicating the success of the limited educational programs offered at the existing facility. Since May 2010, 128 inmates at the Belknap County Jail have completed the General Educational Development (GED) program, 36 of whom have returned to jail, but only five of them for committing new crimes.
With a grant from the United States Department of Education, since October 2013 the jail has offered a program leading to certification by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which enhances opportunities for employment in the construction industry. Altogether, 102 inmates have earned certification and another 14 are currently enrolled in the class. Of those completing the program, 26 have returned to jail, 15 for violating their probation.
ServSafe, a program for food handlers administered by the National Restaurant Association, has graduated 222 inmates since August 2010, 43 of whom have been incarcerated again, 23 of them for probation violations.
Since September 2015 the jail has provided the training required to handle lead paint, which has been completed 57 inmates, only two of whom have returned to jail.
Gray noted that the rates of recidivism among inmates completing these programs is below that of all inmates and the number returning to jail charged with new offenses is even less.
Furthermore, Gray noted that the jail has recently introduced the Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and Education (CORE) program to address substance abuse and recently celebrated its first graduates. With abuse of alcohol or drugs commonplace among inmates, he said that expanding capacity for treatment will be a major feature of the community corrections center.
Hosmer said that although the Legislature has increased funding for treatment of substance abuse, he added "I'm not sure it's enough and want to see more money directed to the counties and the municipalities faster."

Bare breasts are not free speech but also not illegal - Gilford protester not surprised at ruling


LACONIA – Female breasts on view at local beaches are not illegal yet the right to bare them is not constitutionally protected, said Judge Jim Carroll in a two-page ruling issued Friday that upheld his previous order in the case of two women who were cited for going topless last year at Gilford Beach.
In his ruling, Carroll upheld his original decision regarding criminality by reiterating that since nothing in the state criminal code prohibits women from exposing their nipples in public, the Gilford town ordinance is unenforceable from a legal point of view.
The town had challenged his previous ruling to dismiss case against Heidi Lilley of Gilford and Barbara MacKinnon after they were both given violations by police for appearing topless at the beach on Sept. 6. saying he "misapprehended" a provision in state law regarding regulations made by local authorities.
Carroll took notice of the fact that the legislature recently decided not to criminalize the exposure of the female nipple after a bill introduced by three Lakes Region state representatives failed to get the support it needed to pass.
"The Court had previously found that RSA 645:1 or Indecent Exposure and Lewdness does not prohibit the public display of the female nipple or breast," he wrote. "With the most recent legislative action, the subject statute remains intact."
He said the presumption in state law is that it "flows from the principle that municipal legislation is invalid if it is repugnant to, or inconsistent with, state law." State law, he said, preempts local law if there is an actual conflict between the two.
Gilford town officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
In the same ruling, Carroll also said Lilley and MacKinnon's actions that day were not constitutionally protected as free speech under the First Amendment. They had also filed a motion to reconsider his previous order on constitutional grounds.
"I'm not surprised," said Lilley Friday, adding that there really wasn't anything else to say.

Migrants keep Belknap growing


LACONIA — Belknap County was among six of the 10 counties in the state where the population has increased between 2010 and 2015, according to estimates released this week by the United States Census Bureau.

Since 2010 the population of Belknap County has grown by 549 people, from 60,092 to 60,644, or 0.9 percent. Migrants, 396 from foreign countries and 556 from other counties or states – 952 altogether – accounted for the increase as the 3,357 deaths outnumbered the 2,873 births by 484. The net increase of 549 includes a "residual," or change in population that cannot be attributed to any specific demographic component.

The population of the state grew from 1,316,466 to 1,330,608, or by 1.1 percent. At 0.9 percent, the pace of growth in Belknap County placed fifth among the 10 counties, behind Strafford County at 3.0 percent, Rockingham County at 2.2 percent, Hillsborough County at 1.5 percent and Merrimack County at 1.1 percent.
But, from 2014 to 2015 the population of Belknap County increased 0.4 percent, keeping pace with Merrimack and Rockingham counties while trailing Strafford County, the fastest growing county in the state at 0.5 percent.