To The Daily Sun,
As a candidate for the Belknap County Commission, my desire to learn all I can about jail issues recently led me to visit the Sullivan County Jail in Claremont. There are valuable lessons to to be gained from what they've accomplished. I spent two hours listening, asking questions, and getting a tour of their new Community Corrections facility. They have also renovated their old jail and use it for pretrial detentions and for inmates who are ineligible for Community Corrections programs.
They completed their project for about $10 million and have also seen remarkable results from the anti-recidivism programs they've implemented. A similar program has been included in the design for the new facility our commission has proposed. Those programs provide major public safety and money-saving benefits which I will write about later. I want to focus now on sharp pencil lessons that might help Belknap County.
I learned that construction specifications for jails come in four varieties. Correctional standards are the most expensive, followed by industrial, commercial, and residential standards. The standard to be applied depends upon the purpose of the facility. Correction standards are used when the highest level of security is necessary. The others can be used for construction that does not have the same security needs. A building dedicated to community corrections does not require the highest specifications standards. It houses inmates who are involved in programs leading to behavioral change and participating in education, drug and mental health treatment, work release and electronic monitoring. Thus, the entire building can be constructed with a lower level of security than a building designed to hold inmates securely who are not eligible for programming.
We ought to be able to utilize the Sullivan County experience to help inform our discussion, while keeping in mind circumstances unique to Belknap County, such as that we are significantly larger and have the need for empty cells to use during Bike Week, etc.
Candidate for Belknap County Commissioner
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