To the Editor:
There has been much said about the Republicans’ effort to repeal SB 500, the new law that gives every inmate a period on parole with supervision and help in rejoining society. Repeal is a bad idea. Here’s why:
I spent eight years in the New Hampshire State Prison. I have been on parole for 2 ½ years now. Reentry into the community has been hard, but I had a wife and supportive friends and family on the outside to help in the process. The prisoners who most need SB 500 are those who have lost everyone and everything while incarcerated. Frequently these men and women burned their bridges by the crime they committed. Often they were running with the wrong crowd or dealing with addiction or mental illness prior to their incarceration. Their release back into the community is fraught with danger. Without the guidance of a watchful parole officer, their chances to succeed are slim. Repealing SB500 to appear “tough on crime” is short-sighted and contrary to the best interests of the State of New Hampshire.
Let me tell you a true story. I met a man in prison. I will not tell you his name because he could be easily located through the sex offender registry. He was in his 50’s at the time. He had been convicted of incest. One of the requirements for his parole was the successful completion of the prison’s sex offender program. But, he has Asperger’s Syndrome. He keeps to himself, will not make eye contact, and finds interpersonal communication difficult. He flunked out of the sex offender program and was denied parole.
The problem was; he didn’t know how long he had to serve. One day, after more than 15 years in prison, he was called to the unit counselor’s office and told that he was maxing out in one week. It was January. He had no one on the outside. He had no skills. He had no plans. He had no place to stay. The local homeless shelter would not take him because he was a sex offender. I heard through the grapevine that the unit counselor drove him to a boarding house and paid his first week’s rent.
Is this really how the State of New Hampshire wants to handle such cases? Is this wise, or even safe? SB 500 assures that people like this will get released into the community gradually under supervision and will be helped to find appropriate housing and employment. Everyone benefits. Please, whoever you vote for in November, tell them you want to keep SB 500.