To The Sun:
We are writing to voice our deep concern regarding the cuts to the Belknap County budget, which we feel are shortsighted and will adversely affect the opening of the new Community Corrections Center that is absolutely needed to help rebuild a healthy, safe and vibrant Lakes Region community!
On March 13th, seven of our Belknap county delegates (7-5) voted against the motion of Rep Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) to restore the $95,400 that had been cut from the proposed Corrections Dept budget. In the Fall of 2015, many of us were in attendance when the Community Corrections Center proposal was put forth and the aspect of the proposal that resonated with many of us was the intensive programming that would be available for the inmates during their time incarcerated at Belknap County Jail.
As most in our community are aware, our county, state and many parts of our country are battling a serious public health issue – substance misuse. This issue has rocked many communities, including those in Belknap County, to their core. This disease has caused heartache and despair for individuals, their families and friends. It impacts securing a productive workforce and enticing new businesses and families to move to our community. So, yes, it needs to be addressed on so many levels and the staffing of the Community Corrections Center is an important piece of this puzzle.
Here are a few facts and statistics to take into account:
• Approximately 85 percent of the inmates incarcerated in the Belknap County Jail have substance misuse as the root cause of their criminal charge.
• Belknap County recidivism rate is an astounding 72 percent, which means that roughly three in four inmates released from our jail end up back in our jail.
• The fiscal cost of incarceration is great and the cost per inmate at Belknap County Jail is more than $100 per day.
• Regional Youth Risk Behavior Survey data indicates that nearly 14 percent of high school students in the region had a family member in jail or in prison and research shows that children of incarcerated family members tend to struggle in school.
• The Community Corrections Center is modeled on programming that is present in many county jails and has data that demonstrates successful outcomes.
• In our own state, Sullivan County implemented this model and reduced its recidivism from 58 percent to 18 percent.
The Community Corrections model is proven to reduce recidivism, which will have long term economic benefits from reduced jail costs and more productive citizens who are less reliance on public assistance. Moreover, reducing recidivism will have a profound impact on the families of those who are incarcerated, as we must remember that each person incarcerated is someone's loved one. For these reasons, it is common sense to us that the Community Corrections Center is an important investment in the future of Belknap County and that the Belknap County Delegation should restore its funding to necessary levels.
If you care about this issue you need to let your representatives know how you feel. They will be meeting Tuesday, March 28, at The Belknap County Delegation at 6 p.m. located at 34 County Drive, Laconia, or call the following members who voted against reinstating this money Commission Chair Herb Vadney (R-Meredith), Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton), Rep Barbara Contois (R- Barnstead), Rep Peter Varney (R-Alton), Rep Marc Abear (R-Meredith), Rep Norman Silber (R-Gilford) and Rep Glenn Aldrich (R-Gilford).
Clare and Mike Persson
Chief Chris Adams
Elaine and Dick Smith
Henry and Trish Weatherbee