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We are meeting to catalogue possible solutions to jail issues

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

We are a group of concerned citizens consisting of three Belknap County representatives and two private citizens that has been meeting in an effort to catalogue possible solutions to the issues surrounding the county jail. We are Bob Greemore, Mike Sylvia and Dick Burchell, delegates to the Convention, and two local businessmen, Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton and George Hurt of Gilford, who are private citizens who are knowledgeable about the jail. All of us are concerned that overcrowding be eased, that substandard mechanical systems be improved and that the beneficial programming now in place be expanded as room to do so is made available.

Each of the ad hoc members of this committee has his own favored solution but this letter is not meant to advocate one position over another. The members are concerned that time has passed since deficiencies at the jail were identified and that, despite the investment of several hundred thousand dollars in analysis and planning, the Belknap Commission seems stymied by the almost universal disapproval of the plan presented by Ricci Greene. That plan, at an estimated cost
of $42.5 million, is simply unaffordable and has won almost no support. Should we languish with the current situation because we are not able to afford everything that may be desirable? We think that the most evident shortcomings of the jail may be mitigated by one or more of the following options. We hope that this is the beginning of a public forum where all are encouraged to present their opinions and concerns. Each option will have strengths and weaknesses and these, together with associated costs, will need to be weighed.

We would be remiss if we did not mention that Chapter 30 of State law, section B:12, specifies that twice a year the commissioners are to inspect the prison and to then file a report with the Attorney General within 30 days. This has been done only twice in recent years, once in 2009 when conditions were described as satisfactory and once in 2013 when conditions were described as dire. Commissioner Philpot was central to both reports since he was vice chair in each case. It seems a fair question to ask him "what happened?" and we look forward to his answer.

Option 1: A free standing pod which likely would be a temporary answer to resolve the issue of substandard accommodations for women;

2: A plan previously presented for expansion to the rear of the existing jail in the area near where the sheds now stand. This plan should be located and examined as to its practicability;

3: A women's wing which would be contiguous with, but not attached to, the existing facility. Presumably, a fenced exercise yard could be located between the current facility and the new wing;

4: Relocation of existing executive and administrative office space to rental space until a less expensive wood frame building can be erected to house
the commissioners and county staff. The women's quarters and program rooms could fit within this very expensive space;

5: Temporary relocation of the women to a building which, at least prospectively, could be leased from the state and located at the site of the former state school.

The county needs to evaluate the growth in its jail population as well as the various possible means of contending with that growth. We hope that this document
can serve as a springboard that assists in that evaluation.

Rep. Bob Greemore, Meredith

Rep. Mike Sylvia, Belmont

Rep. Dick Burchell, Gilmanton

Dave DeVoy, Sanbornton

George Hurt, Gilford