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County officials agree to address immediate security issues at jail

December 22, 2011
OSSIPEE — According to Carroll County House of Corrections Superintendent Jason Johnson, he has been given the go-ahead by county commissioners and delegates to put together a request for proposals to get bids for "addressing the immediate issues" at the jail. Those issues include creating a more secure inmate recreation area.

The decision comes after an inmate escaped over the razor wire fence at the facility Dec. 1. Johnson read a statement to the commissioners at their Dec. 7 meeting, the morning after escaped inmate David Hobson had been apprehended in Rochester.

His statement read, "I come to you today as an extremely frustrated department head. I will not be providing my normal weekly report because that report is irrelevant today. As you are well aware, the Carroll County Department of Corrections had an escape last Thursday from the main recreation yard. As of now, Mr. Hobson has been captured, and returned to our facility where he will await disposition of his original cases, and now escape.

"When will this county realize that failure to address the security heeds of the correctional facility amounts to nothing more than gross negligence? This county has had recommendations from subject matter experts before the facility was built as to the needs of the facility. I cite sections in the "Operational and Architectural Program" drafted in August of 2001 where the study committee recommended the yards be enclosed. First, it stressed the importance of a secure perimeter, and that perimeter should be used as a last resort to slow down escapes. They recommended to enclose a portion of the outside exercise yard area for outdoor exercise during inclement weather. The study committee suggested that the building itself provide boundaries of the outdoor exercise yard. They also made the recommendation if the yard was fenced, they suggested that grillwork or fencing must be designed to prevent unauthorized persons from observing or throwing contraband into the yards.

"The study committee also made recommendations for the number of staff to effectively and efficiently operate the facility. They recommended 36 security officers and stated this would not amount to bare bones staffing, nor would it allow for an over abundance of staff. Presently the Carroll County Department of Corrections employs 29 fulltime correctional officers, seven short of the recommended number. I have drawings submitted by SMRT in April 2002 prior to ground breaking showing the exercise yards fully enclosed as suggested by the study committee. The design was changed do meet the approved budget. In 2010, nine years later, a separate study was conducted of the Carroll County Department of Corrections by the National Institute of Corrections. Mr. John Alese did not view this report prior to making his findings. Three items that remain consistent from the study in 2001 is the yards need to be covered; the lack of a secure perimeter, and the amount of staff was questionable. I conducted a staffing analysis with the assistance of another Superintendent in this state, and based on the drawings, and the assignments required of the various posts, the conclusion was between 36 to 39 officers, again consistent with the 2001 study.

"As of now, we have had contraband introduced into the facility via the recreation yards, and a successful escape. It is time for this county to look at the facts submitted by the experts who make these recommendations to counties across the state and country and make sound decisions based on those facts. Failure to do so amounts to continued gross negligence.

"I want to address the comments made by this body and the delegation. During the 2011 budget the department was labeled "inefficient" without any facts to back it up. There was a quote that this county does not nor will not follow correctional standards. Standards are what sound policies are based on, and failing to follow these standards will amount to successful lawsuits, which in the end have will cost the taxpayers more.

"Further, this body is quoted that based on my requested equipment, it appears we are preparing for a riot. Less than one month after that comment we had a major incident at the facility. It is embarrassing to me and my staff, that my staff who initially began chasing Mr. Hobson could not communicate with responding deputies and local law enforcement. The recommendation from this body, and members of my subcommittee was for us to have cell phones, not proper radio equipment to communicate with dispatch and responding agencies who may be responding to an emergency while the staff is out of the facility conducting an inmate transport. Imagine for a moment, you are chasing someone through a rural or urban area, and you must dial on a cell phone and communicate to a dispatch center. It is unrealistic the constraints that are put on this department to save money. For those individuals who feel that these needs are not required because we do not hold dangerous or violent offenders, I submit to you that the inmates sentenced to state and federal prisons began serving their time in county correctional facilities. We have had our fair share of violent offenders as described in RSA 651:5.

"What I am asking for is to ensure that the appropriate funds are provided to the facility so we can meet our obligation to ensure efficient and effective operations as outlined in statue. We owe it to the communities within this county that the correctional facility operates in a safe and secure manner in order to protect the public. Failure to do so is not an option, and this body needs to recognize that. Due to this counties failure to meet its obligations, we tied up numerous county, state and federal resources from not only New Hampshire, but also Maine in order to capture our escapee.

"In closing, I want to thank the numerous officers from all the agencies involved who participated in the search, capture, and safe return of Mr. Hobson to the facility. I also want to thank the Ossipee House of Pizza and McDonalds who provided food to the responders."

A review of the CCHOC 2010 annual county report proves the apparent misconception that the county does not house dangerous or violent offenders is false.

In 2010, the types of crimes inmates were admitted to the facility charged with include one for homicide, 202 for assault-related crimes, 86 for unauthorized entry such as criminal trespassing or burglary, 52 for destruction of property, and 23 for sexual assault. Additionally, 62 inmates were being held on charges of violating their bail conditions or probation.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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