Final Belknap County budget undermines corrections goals
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Belknap County Delegation approved a $27.9 million budget Tuesday night that significantly cuts a key program at the new Belknap Community Corrections Center.
The adopted budget reduces funding for the CORE program by $92,000, from $220,000 to $128,000. That budget was the work of Rep. Marc Abear (R-Meredith) and was one of three oprions under consideration by the delegation, which last month rejected the $29 million budget proposed by the Belknap County Commission.
The Corrections Opportunity for Recovery and Education program, which emphasizes treatment rather than incarceration for prisoners with drug dependency problems, was strongly supported at a public budget hearing on Jan. 29.
The county has had a pilot program run by Horizons Counseling Center for nearly two years. It provided services three days a week for about 10 inmates. After the Community Corrections Center opened in October, the program expanded to five days a week, and Horizons hired three clinicians and a case manager with the goal of eventually serving up to 35 inmates.
There also has been coordination with prosecutors and probation officers to require participation in the CORE program as a condition to be imposed by judges in court cases.
After the delegation adopted Abear’s budget on an 8-5 vote, Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) questioned the cut, pointing out that it appeared to be based on incorrect information about how long the program had been operating on an expanded basis.
Abear defended the cut and was supported by Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton), who said that the Corrections Department budget approved by the delegation is up substantially higher than last year.
County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the CORE program is one of the keys to the success of the new corrections center in reducing recidivism and that legislators were fully aware of the costs associated with the program when they voted unanimously in late 2015 to approve an $8 million bond for the center.
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