To The Daily Sun,
There is much discussion about the condition of the Belknap County Department of Corrections (Jail) and the idea of building a new 42 million dollar facility at $380,000 per inmate. Upon invitation, on August 12, 2013, we joined with several New Hampshire Representatives for a tour of the jail to learn about the building condition and utilization of space.
The facility is located just north of the downtown Laconia area with the jail, sheriff and nursing home sharing the same location. The outdoor grounds look fine, parking seemed plentiful and the brick exterior of the building looks good. The building structure is made of concrete and brick materials that should last for hundreds of years if properly maintained.
The current number of inmates being housed is about 111. The length of stay of inmates held between January 1, 2013 and August 12, 2013 included 439 for 1 to 15 days, about 119 held for 16 to 60 days and 78 held over 60 days. Almost 70 percent of the total number of inmates were held for less than 15 days. Jails are usually for non-convicted people being held waiting a trial, bail, etc.
As we entered the building through a door near the newly renovated County Commissioners offices and conference/meeting room, the concrete walls were nicely painted, the flooring and ceilings looked great and restrooms were clean.
The jail Superintendent Daniel Ward, Sr. did a superb job of briefly explaining the basic operations, the use of rooms and answered questions sincerely. He said tours of the jail are done almost on a daily basis and anyone interested is welcome to call for a tour appointment.
Through connecting doorways, we entered the main area of the jail where the security control room, classrooms, visiting booths and five maximum security cells are located. The overall condition looked great. The concrete walls have a fresh coat of paint and the resilient floors were shiny with polish. It was stated that the inmates painted the walls in this area.
As we proceeded through a hallway to the large gym area where 16 minimum security woman inmates were jointly housed, it was obvious that building maintenance was little to none. The concrete walls and floors need painting and the ceilings have large stain marks. Upon inquiring about the stains, the explanation was that the roof leaks and buckets are used to catch rainwater. It was unknown as to why the leaks have not been repaired. Roof leaks can cause much damage to ceilings, walls, electrical circuits, etc. and should be patched right away to stop the leak until a permanent repair is completed.
The beds were basic metal framed with mattress. However, it sure seems that the use of bunk beds by jail inmates is appropriate since military personnel are required to sleep in them as Mr. David DeVoy, an experienced longtime military person pointed out in a recent letter.
About 43 minimum security men were located in two large rooms with a shared bathroom. The upstairs room, referred to as the attic, was housing about 13 "work release" inmates who work at the nursing home. A portable air conditioner used in the medical room was relocated to the attic area during the recent heat spell. Purchasing more of the relatively low cost portable air conditioning units could be a reasonable solution when summer temperatures are extreme.
There are about 10 smaller rooms housing between 3 and 7 inmates each that have several individual rooms with bunks off a common area used for TV watching, card games, etc. Some of the individual room door locks broke and have not worked for a long time. The locks were never repaired due to high cost and apparent lack of real need.
The neglect of ongoing maintenance makes these inmate areas look run down and dirty since the walls and floor need painting, the bathrooms are in need of patching, tiling, painting, etc. However, painting is inexpensive, especially if the inmates do the work as they did in the main area of the jail. The showers could be repaired by removing old wall material, replacing plumbing fixtures as needed and installing new wall backing with ceramic tiles. One shower stall was lined with plastic sheathing in attempt to stop water from penetrating the walls. A skilled plumber and tile contractor could repair a shower stall in only a couple of day's time. This should be done right away since water leaks from the shower could cause more damage in other areas.
An estimate for a new jail building was obtained since some believe that the jail looks so bad it is not repairable. Most admit that the 42 million dollars seems exorbitant. Before spending many millions of dollars for a new building and demolishing the existing space, it would be prudent to obtain several estimates to fix the roof on a permanent basis, remodel the bathrooms, install reasonable air and heating systems, tile some of the floors while allowing the inmates to paint all the walls and remaining floors.
Upon completion of remodeling, this area will look like the main area mentioned earlier.
In terms of space, a tour handout indicates the design capacity of the jail is 87 inmates, which is 24 less than the current 111. An estimate from several contractors to build a basic concrete wall addition with brick veneer exterior about 10,000 SF in size (much less than 15 percent of the combined existing facility) seems like a reasonable way of increasing the capacity. At 100 to 200 dollars per square foot, the cost would be between 1 and 2 million dollars. The additional space along with the use of bunk beds will provide more than the needed inmate capacity. It will also free up the gym to be used again for winter exercise and other activities.
Hopefully, the 42 million dollar new jail building amount is not being used as a means of convincing people that a 21 million dollar building will be a bargain! Also, if neglecting jail repairs is being used as an attempt to justify an entirely new jail building, the strategy should be stopped. With enough public input, optimistically, the majority of the current delegation will vote for prudent spending. In the meantime, using a practical approach to make repairs should be approved before there is more unnecessary damage to the building.
Rep. Jane Cormier (Belknap District 8)
Rep. Stephen Holmes (Belknap District 5)
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 08:16
To The Daily Sun,
After reading, watching and listening to the news and debates concerning events in the Middle East over the past few years I've begun to question this nation's belief that people in that part of the world actually seek or even approve of democracy. Most recently the "Arab Spring" has turned pretty stormy which is really not much different from before the democracy movements. Perhaps I'm wrong but given the history, culture, and dominate religion, Islam, all of which are authoritarian based, I consider that it is perhaps a fools errand to attempt to promote democracy there. That culture seems to have done best when under the control of one sort of strong man or another. Now I'm not saying that is any sort of just or even a peaceful society but compared to the chaos of the recent half century it could not be much worse.
Presently Egypt is suffering from the threat of potential civil war; Syria is in full blown revolt with 100,000 dead, some estimate; Iraq is showing signs of joining the bloody circus as has Libya and Afghanistan. Right now here in the U.S. our leaders are debating whether or not we should provide weapons to the Syrian rebels and what to do about Egypt? I say stay clear of the whole thing, we have no dog in those fights. Getting involved is a no-win position for us. Who ever prevails in Syria will be no friend of ours and in Egypt the army kept the Muslim brotherhood under control for decades so even if another Mubarak gains power that is better for us then the brotherhood. Still let them decide.
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 07:59
To The Daily Sun,
On Thursday (8/15), a front page story appeared regarding a local man facing multiple rape charges. Daily Sun reporter Gail Ober went too far in her unnecessarily graphic description of these alleged assaults. I believe, that most readers needed no more clarification than the official charges levied. Testimony in open court doesn't need to be quoted when it is inappropriate for public consumption. Whether young or old, your readers don't glean more information from such sensationalism, the alleged crimes are disgusting enough, but your story was nothing short of pornographic.
PS: I realize what sells newspapers, but Gail remember yours is FREE!
Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 07:51
To The Daily Sun,
Listening and reading the news the past couple of weeks it seems the Democrats are having quite a problem with North Carolina passing a voter ID law. Now if I believed their position that such a law is designed to prevent or reduce the minority vote, I too would be against; I just don't.
The left's mantra that every vote should be counted is a sound position but so is the position of the rights that every vote must be a legal vote. I can see nothing wrong with either position but when, in the last election, some districts reported 115% of the votes for one candidate, something is wrong. It has long been taken as a given that in some strongly Democratic areas, the voter lists are less then current and contain the names of dead or former residents who are no longer in the districts. Often research after an election will show that many of these folks voted. Citizens must have the confidence that our elections are fair and above board and given the strong indications that things are not as they should be I feel that voter ID laws are a good thing, just as I feel every legitimate vote should be counted. I have not heard one reasonable argument so far against these laws.
Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 07:43
To The Daily Sun,
Senator Shaheen and Rep. Shea-Porter love to tell us everything they are doing for us. Here is a list of tax hikes that they did not tell us about. Both of them voted for all of these taxes:
— Surtax (3.8 percent) on investment income
— Hike in Medicare Payroll Tax
— Individual Mandate Excise Tax
— Tax on health insurers
— Excise tax on comprehensive health insurance plans
— "Black liquor" tax hike (bio-fuel)
— Tax on drug companies
— Tax on medical device manufacturers
— High medical bills tax deduction
— Flexible spending account cap - aka "Special Needs Kids Tax"
— Medicine cabinet tax
— Elimination of tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage (Medicare Part D)
— Change the 'economic substance doctrine' (allows IRS to disallow legal tax deductions)
— Tax on indoor tanning services
— Health Savings Account (HAS) withdrawal tax hike
— Blue Cross/Blue Shield tax hike
— Excise tax on charitable hospitals
— Employer reporting of insurance on W-2 – allows IRS to tax you if you do not have insurance
Call Rep.Shea-Porter or Senator Shaheen and ask them if I am wrong. Ask them to explain why they voted for all these taxes? Ask them if Obamacare applies to Congress or their congressional staff? The answer is no. Obamacare is the solution to the health care crisis but not for Congress. In 2014, we need to vote out Senator Shaheen, Reps Shea-Porter and Kuster.
Last Updated on Friday, 16 August 2013 07:35