To The Daily Sun,
A letter written by Mr. Gordon Blais was published in The Laconia Daily Sun on Thursday, Jan. 7. In his letter, Mr. Blais was very critical of the handling of a female inmate at the Belknap County Jail, who attempted suicide during her incarceration and who had to be hospitalized because of injuries that resulted from the unsuccessful attempt. This hospitalization has given rise to a substantial bill for which the county is responsible. Mr. Blais cites this incident as "another example of the poor leadership and bad management that afflicts our county government."
The incident referred to by Mr. Blais did in fact occur in the early fall of 2015. The occurrence itself is the only factually accurate content in Mr. Blais's letter; the remaining statements in the letter are incorrect.
First, Mr. Blais represents in his letter that his exchanges about the incident during the public comment portion of the meeting were with Commissioner Taylor. The exchanges he referred to in his letter were with me, as chairman and presiding officer at the meeting. I do not recall Commissioner Taylor actually participating in the discussion. Our meetings are videoed, thus making the fact of who said what easily verifiable.
Second, when processed into the county jail, the inmate was in the custody of the Department of Corrections, not the Sheriff's Department, as asserted by Mr. Blais.
Third, the claim by Mr. Blais that those in charge of the inmate knew or had reason to know that the inmate was a suicide risk is also incorrect.
Fourth, the statement by Mr. Blais that the inmate had previously attempted suicide while in jail is not correct. It should be noted that if the inmate had been viewed as a suicide risk, she would have been in a special cell and under constant observation.
Fifth, the inmate in question was in a regular cell occupied by inmates awaiting trial and classification, after which they are moved into general population. During this initial period these inmates have regular walk-by security checks every 30 minutes.
Sixth, when the attempted suicide was discovered, eight minutes had passed since the last walk by observation.
Seventh, Mr. Blais's suggestion that we don't utilize cameras in the jail is inaccurate. Cameras are a regular part of internal security in the jail. Cameras are focused on many of the cells from the day room area immediately outside the cells, including the one which the inmate in question was occupying. These cameras do have blind areas. The camera in the cell area in which the inmate in question was occupying observed some of her cell area, including much of the bunk area, but it did have blind areas within the cell. The inmate in question apparently knew the jail and the security routine well enough from previous stays to pick a time right after a walk by and to utilize an area out of camera sight for her suicide attempt.
This incident was thoroughly investigated immediately after it occurred. The results of his investigation were reported to the Board of Commissioners. At the Oct. 7, 2015, meeting Commissioner Burchell stated, "the recent incident at the jail was handled very professionally."
Commissioner Taylor stated that the report he had gotten indicated that "the handling of the incident had been outstanding." I concurred with my two colleagues. There was no negligence in the handling of the inmate prior to the suicide attempt and the incident was carefully and thoroughly investigated immediately after it took place.
In short, it has become clear that Mr. Blais looks for any opportunity he can find to hurl allegations of mismanagement against those who manage the county. It all started approximately four years ago, when his wife chose to resign her position with the county nursing home rather than face disciplinary action concerning allegations of improper conduct on her part. This latest assertion of mismanagement is simply another in a growing list of baseless claims of serious mismanagement by Mr. Blais, who clearly has his own personal ax to grind.
David DeVoy, Chairman
Belknap County Commission
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