To The Daily Sun,
In a recent letter to the editor of The Sun, I learned that Bob Greemore, Mike Sylvia and Dick Burchell, Dave DeVoy and George Hurt were meeting "in an effort to catalog possible solutions to the issues surrounding the county jail." Of the five people mentioned, only Bob Greemore has ever even attended a county jail planning meeting. Only Dave DeVoy has ever attended a County Commission meeting, and that was only when he was running for commissioner. With that in mind, I question exactly what makes these five "knowledgeable about the jail." Touring the jail is quite different than understanding how the jail operates and what factors must be considered when discussing repairs to or the replacement of the jail.
Apparently, we can all agree that there are serious problems with the current jail. This includes the need to ease overcrowding, continue to provide beneficial programs, and deal with the deficiencies in the existing facility, including the mechanical systems. This agreement should ordinarily form the basis for a reasonable discussion about how to best craft a responsible, long-term and economically viable solution to our criminal justice system in Belknap County. Instead of having a reasonable discussion, however, these five men choose to announce their intentions and make their proposals in a letter to the editor. Their approach does nothing to advance dialog, but it does avoid the necessity of supporting their position with facts, or answering critical questions that may legitimately arise in a discussion. This suggests that their actions are merely political, and not directed at resolving the problems we face.
The County Commission, county administrators, sheriff, corrections department and our consultants, health professionals, concerned citizens, the county attorney, restorative justice department, defense bar, judges and a host of others have been working on our criminal justice issues, including the jail and house of corrections, for over four years. We have developed a wealth of information, data and input that we are happy to discuss and share. I once again invite
anyone who is interested to come and participate. As always, I include the members of our delegation in this invitation.
I must comment on the allegation that I have not fulfilled my obligation to inspect the jail and report to the Attorney General's office. Had anyone asked me personally, I would have said that as far as the inspections taking place is concerned, I absolutely have. I have inspected the jail, taken people on tours of the jail and have visited the jail regularly, and certainly more than required by NH RSA 30-B:12. Letters regarding the annual visits have not always been filed.
This has been corrected. If anyone wants to discuss this further, call or come to a meeting. I'm happy to discuss it or answer any questions you may have.
As for the specific recommendations of this ad hoc committee, I believe that the authors know that none of their suggestions are really viable. There is no analysis of the staffing requirements, classification restrictions, transportation, food, medical, laundry or other required services that impact the housing of inmates. I'm sure also that at least Rep. Greemore and Mr. DeVoy are aware of the reasons why use of the state school property is not an available option
and I'm sure that they are aware of the position that the people of Laconia have taken about the use of that property for housing prisoners. To say that we have not given serious thought or consideration to alternatives is simply not accurate. That process is a major part of our jail planning process. Likewise, we have asked citizens as well as representatives to participate in the process. We consider taxpayers, and "John Q. Public" to be stakeholders: our current
committee includes members of the public and we invite and welcome the participation of anyone interested in moving this process forward and engaging in the process with an open mind.
There is nothing new in the "options" in this letter to the editor, and having ad hoc meetings out of the public eye to discuss such an important issue does nothing to advance the ball. If these five people really want to be part of the solution, they should come forward and add their voices to the already ongoing discussion. Perhaps they don't feel that they can be persuasive, or perhaps they are afraid of being persuaded. I don't know which it is because they only seem to speak in letters to the editor. That is not my chosen method of communication when doing the county's business, and I don't think it is the appropriate forum.
The jail planning committee will next met on November 19 at the county complex. Please feel free to attend, voice your opinions or concerns, and we will be happy to answer any of your questions.
Edward D. Philpot, Jr.
Belknap County Commissioner