To The Daily Sun,
As superintendent of the Belknap County Department of Corrections, I want to extend my sincere thanks to those members of the Delegation and to their invited guests who took the time to attend the 90-minute tour of this facility on Monday, August 12th. While not likely to be on most people's "must see list" for attractions in the Lakes Region, I am always honored and proud to show individuals and groups around the facility. Members of the Delegation have joined the ranks of interested citizens and taxpayers of Belknap County, a number of local selectboards and city councilors, members of the law enforcement and criminal justice system, and interest-based and leadership groups such as the League of Women Voters, Leadership Lakes Region, Leadership NH, CASA, DCYF-Laconia, Belmont Explorers, Children's Fund of NH, the Tilton School, and the Laconia Citizen's Academy, just to name a few.
A walk through more than 130 years of construction history dating back to the 1890s reveals not simply how well the physical structures have held up over the years but more importantly how the construction styles have evolved and drives the way we hold, and provide services to those citizens who have been placed under our charge. Those very practical changes from simple brick walls, to cinder block construction, to poured concrete walls and rolls of razor wire, and from traditional cell blocks to military-style dorm housing all tell stories about the people held within each group and the society that held them.
It is overly simplistic to suggest that we can (or should) as a community house our inmates all inside a military tent as our soldiers, sailors or airmen might have to do in times of war in a foreign land, or that military barrack style housing as is used in boot camp is appropriate for all levels of inmates from those facing driving offenses together with those charged with home invasion, burglary, rape or drug sales resulting in the death of another. Your jail... the jail of today... houses every one of those inmates and many more.
The jail on County Drive is a microcosm of society. We would never think that a one-size-fits-all approach would work in a school, a hospital, or any other large-scale public safety complex and after more than 20-years specializing in criminal justice, justice studies, and corrections, I can assure you that it doesn't work in this field either. The purpose of an effective classification system is to secure dangerous inmates or those who pose significant risks to society in secure detention settings, including single or double bunk cells, while at the same time recognizing that those who pose little risk and who are able to reasonably return to society better than when they arrived can do so with a little help from professionally trained staff.
Although my staff and I highlighted all of the positive accomplishments of our programming and classification efforts to reduce recidivism and to be the best stewards of the taxpayer's funding, it is clear that much emphasis was placed on the visual inspection of the facility by members of this tour group. Their depiction in the August 20 Laconia Daily Sun was "spot on" and I appreciate the recognition of our efforts to address those areas of the building that had been painted and cleaned where they could be as well as noting those areas of deficiency that needed attention. I have heard suggestions that paint and polish can simply be the "lipstick on a pig" and while those things are clearly desirable, they fail to address fundamental safety, security or operational concerns that are of primary importance. Certainly I would be the last person to suggest that years of neglect or a lack of maintenance or replacement of broken locks, poor electrical systems, rusting pipes, shortage of staffing to properly supervise the inmates or maintenance projects, or broken HVAC systems don't contribute to the accelerated decay of any building or system but paint and polish alone won't fix that issue. I don't believe anyone is suggesting we should have a "pretty jail" but rather one that meets the changing needs of Belknap County, that addresses the growing substance abuse and mental health epidemic, and provides legislatively mandated services to those "sentenced to hard labor" and also those who are "presumed innocent", detained without criminal commitment and awaiting trial.
We are often asked by members of the tour groups how we are able to manage our population. In the early 1990s the inmate population in total was as low as 34. In 2013, your jail holds as many as 120 inmates within its walls; this in a building that was designed to hold 87 bodies. Operationally that means the jail's "support services" were designed for 87 people. Services such as toilets, showers, seating areas to eat meals, telephones to talk to attorneys and family members, visiting booths and recreation areas and physical floor space — all of which are governed by national standards used by the courts for the treatment and detention of prisoners. We exceed that cap every single day by having some inmates sleep on the floor on a "stack-a-bunk" plastic sled bed. We have converted the gym space for housing, have taken away two program areas to make additional housing units and double-bunked cells not intended for or designed to hold the numbers assigned.
My answer to the question is always, "we make it work because we have no right of refusal in a jail"; we accept whomever the police department arrests and detains and whomever the court sentences without regard to pre-existing medical issues, gang affiliation, mental health status, drug abuse history, predatory nature or potential to be preyed upon. We hold inmates as young as 17 years old and have individuals well in to their 80s today. I would ask those who suggest a single cinder block 4-walled dorm whether careful consideration was given with regards to the protection of these various groups and the unique needs that may be required to hold them as they each come and go "through the system" between one day and up to several years?
Today, we are supervising 143 inmates. We have 111 inmates inside the jail. The remainder are benefiting from services and programming that we have designed to help reduce our population and to safely reintegrate inmates back in to the community in a manner that helps them to become the law-abiding contributing members of society that we all expect. Although I spend a significant amount of time discussing programming during that tour and how our one classroom space is used to offer some 37 programs to all classification levels, ages and to both males and females, the article discussing the "needs of the jail" failed to even mention it as a consideration.
Could we stack inmates like cord-wood by simply going higher with bunk beds? Since we have exhausted floor square footage, the only option left is cubic-foot space (go up!). I can simply remind those who consider this as a solution that the building was not designed to support that theory. A home's kitchen table or a septic system in one's own yard was only designed to accommodate a fixed number. You can temporarily exceed that design but at what cost and for how long is uncertain; eventually, creative manipulation of time and services provided will no longer handle the approaching tides. The need to address the functional and operational plan for the entire criminal justice system in Belknap County goes significantly beyond the overcrowding that has existed here since 2006 when the average daily population first exceeded design capacity.
The county has steadfastly supported alternative sentencing programs, electronic monitoring, work release, drug and alcohol counseling, pre-trial and diversion services, and creative sentencing options with the local courts as means to address the numbers and the specific needs of incarcerated and potentially incarcerated individuals. We have partnerships with UNH Cooperative Extension, Belknap-Merrimack Community Action Program, DCYF, Lakes Region Community College, NH Employment Security, Horizons Counseling and the Nathan Brody Program, Genesis Behavioral Health, and countless individual services providers within our communities to create a network of collaboration. Without the efforts of these men, women, and organizations, I can assure you that you could not build a jail large enough to address the needs that would be presented to this county. It is not about simply building a building but rather building a system that addresses the needs that are unique to our community.
The citizens and taxpayers of Belknap County should be proud of the work that is being done at this facility. The professional and dedicated employees commit themselves to managing a population that we read about every day on the front page of every single newspaper. We make it possible to sleep soundly at night and to know that your neighbor, loved one, or stranger who gets out of jail and returns back to your community was treated fairly and was given the tools to live as a law-abiding citizen. Thanks again to this group and those who join me on an almost daily basis to explore and understand the jail, how it operates, and the role it plays in the criminal justice system of the 21st century.
Daniel P. Ward, Sr., MBA/PA, CJM
Belknap County Department of Corrections
Last Updated on Friday, 23 August 2013 10:27
To The Daily Sun,
I want a president who will stop the give away called foreign aid, which totaled $53.3 billion in 2012. How have we benefited from this big give away? That money should be used to help Americans at home who are in need!
Who is willing to make the commitment to end this billion dollar giveaway? Tell Hilliary Clinton to come back home with her foreign aid checkbook, the give away is over!
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 10:34
To The Daily Sun,
George Maloof's letter in Wednesday's paper sounds like he wants readers to believe he is just above all this crass political debating though I personally think he has a difficult time defending some of the dumb — yes dumb, that is — things he writes in these pages. He fills his brief letter with clever quotes which seem to me to be an attempted general insult to his critics, he being to civil and all knowing to debate openly with we inferior beings. Really it's just kind of typical, smear the opposition, left-wing stuff puffed up to sound impressive.
Keep writing dumb stuff and we poor dumb hicks will be telling you about it George. Nice try though.
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 10:30
To The Daily Sun,
The 12th Annual Multicultural Festival held August 3 was awesome! What a thrill it was to see 45 people carrying flags from around the world, led by the Laconia Police carrying the American flag, enter Rotary Park on such a beautiful day, to smell the aromas of so many international foods from our vendors and to see the smiles on the faces of thousands of people attending this signature downtown event.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our many, wonderful volunteers, most of whom began work on the Festival back in January. A huge thank you goes out to Kathy James, Mary Jane Hoey, Martha Walker-Kruse, Deb Frawley Drake, Umija Gusinac, Alan Robichaud, Arlene and Jim Fortier, Bob Chapman, Bob Harrington, David Stamps, Bobbie Thomas, Janet Simmons, Jane MacDonald, Len Campbell, Molly Homan, Vickie Trudell, Carey Pierce and Wendy Barrett. We so appreciate Bob Luther and Wayne Sanborn for all their work with electrical and sound production. These people all worked tirelessly behind the scenes making sure everything ran smoothly. To the Belknap County House of Corrections that provided the "muscle" for setting up tables, barricades and tents & then assisting with the cleanup — a HUGE thank you, we couldn't have done it without this help!
The Laconia Human Relations Committee, Laconia Main Street and the Belknap Mill join together to sponsor this community celebration. It is the hard work & support of many people, organizations, businesses and agencies in Laconia and the Lakes Region that lay the foundation for this great celebration of culture. We are proud to honor and thank them. Our enormous gratitude goes out to our major sponsors: Meredith Village Savings Bank, The Penny Pitou-Milo Pike Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation, Genesis Behavioral Health, Northway Bank and Lutheran Social Services. We so appreciate you!
Special thanks are given to the Greek Orthodox Church and the Belknap Mill for use of their tables, Healthlink for allowing us use of their electricity and parking lot, and the City of Laconia: Police Department, the Finance Department and Public Works. Byron's Septic Services and Waste Management provided those "necessary items" needed for our outdoor festival! Thanks go out to David Stamps at dbstamps.com for creating our wonderful program and to Heather Dominick of Dominick Designs of Alton for creating our beautiful posters. We are so appreciative of Lakes Region General Hospital for sponsoring our free shuttle bus that transported passengers to & from the downtown parking areas and to 1st Student Bus Line that provided that bus. Russ Davis generously provided our new banners. And we so appreciate the press coverage provided by The Laconia Daily Sun, Laconia Citizen and the many other news media throughout the state, including LRPA.
Congratulations to all our raffle prize winners and our sincere thanks to our prize contributors: Bayside Service, Cactus Jacks/T-bones, Dairy Queen, Fratello's Restaurant, Hair Affair, Our Place Family Restaurant, Shalimar Resort, Sawyers Dairy Bar and especially Meadowbrook for the grand prize of 2 tickets.
New Horizon Band, our own Lakes Region concert band, provided musical entertainment. Peg Batstone of Wild Women's Studio delivered a fascinating presentation of Crystal Singing Bowls and Eastern Dragon Karate & Self Defense Center awed us with an energy filled demonstration. Concord Community Music School thrilled children with musical entertainment inside the Belknap Mill. Other entertainers were Balla Kouyate from Africa, the Puerto Rican musicians of Edwin Pabon, and the Odaiko Japanese Drummers. Laconia Library celebrated the day with a reading of "The Story of A Pumpkin". Rosemary Murphy, Lakes Region Child Care Services & Squam Lakes Science Center created a delightful children's area with face painting and fun activities. We thank you all so much for contributing to the excitement of the day.
To produce an event like this requires substantial funding. The Multicultural Festival recognizes with gratitude our program advertisers: Christopher Williams Architects, McLaughlin Law Office, Pike Industries, Travel Health, Wild Women's Studio, China Bistro, Water Street Café, Melcher & Prescott, NAPA Auto Care, Patrick's Pub, Bob Merwin State Farm Insurance, Computer Magic, PEN, Martin, Lord & Osman Attorneys, Laurent Overhead Door, Lahey Law Offices, Decorative Interiors, Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health, Zonta Club, Unitarian Universalists, Temple B'nai Israel, Misiaszek Architecture Planning, Debbie Cotton of Caldwell Bankers, Irwin Motors, Franklin Savings Bank, Bank of New Hampshire, and LRGHealthcare. And to our many patrons and supporters of this wonderful event — our heartfelt thanks for your donations.
There wouldn't be a festival without our great vendors and social service agencies. Thank you all for participating. And lastly and just as important — to all of you that attended, we hope you enjoyed the day and we so appreciate your continued support and encouragement of the Laconia Multicultural Festival. Mark your calendars for next year's date of September 6th! Again, thank you Lakes Region!
Becky Guyer & Carol Pierce
Laconia Multicultural Festival Committee
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 10:27
To The Daily Sun,
I always enjoy when Mr. Earle responds to my letters because he inevitably reinforces points that I'm trying to make, while at the same time ignoring issues that I may raise. He once again responds with his filtered version of what he thinks I said and a manufactured version of what he says I wrote. But, as always he never responds to issues that are raised. If Earle had been able to see beyond his hatred, he would realize that I was addressing the direction of the conservative agenda and not the real or imagined "scandals" of the Obama administration. He may cast sticks and stones but his tired old attacks do nothing to advance the conservative cause.
I believe the core principles that all Americans are likely to agree upon are individual freedom, self-determination, personal responsibility, and the preservation of our great nation. These are principles that will remain fresh at all times, as they are fundamentally grounded.
Conservatives need to respond to today's growing public anxiety over middle-class wage stagnation and growing income inequality, and not just produce redundant policies that are plainly intended more for looks than as real solutions. This will require conservatives to work outside their comfort zones. Their whole philosophy seems to be built on the idea that only their perspective is true and right, and all else are lies from the pit of hell. They are conceived by the electorate as insulating themselves in a cloak of impenetrable propaganda, which reinforces their superiority (the "real Americans") and their righteousness.
As a nation we are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and the center-left. But for this to happen, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radical right to be running the G.O.P.
A divided Republican Party cannot win a major election. It's not that Democrats achieve more, or even less than what they promised, it's simply that the Republicans are set to achieve even less. The divisions within the party are holding it back. A Republican Party capable of standing on a conservative fiscal platform without alienating socially progressive voters would handily win over independents, moderates, and a large portion of the American electorate from the Democrats. Republicans in 2016 need a candidate to unite the party on the issues, both foreign and domestic, rather than polarizing it.
While maligning the president must make him feel good, Earle can spare us the dramatic recitation of his scripted outrage about a "divisive president." Republicans have divided the nation into what they perceive are "makers" and "government dependent takers." Does anyone recall them writing off "47 percent" of the American public in 2012? What will the percentage be in 2016? And as far as the Middle East is concerned, apparently Earle has forgotten which administration jumped in with both feet — where are those weapons of mass destruction?
Rather than the frenzied finger pointing, Earle and friends would better serve the conservative cause by promoting an environment dedicated to quality principled candidates that can advance conservative policies and their agenda.
L. J. Siden
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 10:22