NHDP - In Case You Missed It: Stephen's claims on parole reform false

John Stephen's false and reckless claims about SB500 called out

Concord - In their Sunday paper, the Concord Monitor slammed Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen for making false and shameless claims about SB500, the justice reinvestment act.  The reform aims to reduce crime by placing recently released criminals under strict mandatory supervision for 9 months, the period of time during which they are most likely to reoffend.

The Monitor said that Stephen's attacks were "shameless demagoguery, and that the "public should be insulted" by them.  In addition, they also noted that contrary to his false claims that the law is going to improve public safety and has the support of "of the associations representing New Hampshire's police chiefs and troopers, the corrections commissioner and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court."

SB500 passed unanimously in the state Senate, and with overwhelming support in the state House.  But recently, John Stephen and out of state ultraconservative groups have been distorting the truth and calling for its repeal.  They are attempting to turn a public safety law into an election year political cudgel, and as the editorial says, "should not be rewarded."

The full text of the editorial is below and can be found here.


Concord Monitor: Stephen's claims on parole reform false


Sunday, October 3, 2010

The public should be insulted, not frightened, by Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen's shameless demagoguery. He is waging a campaign of fear in his zeal to unseat Gov. John Lynch that should not be rewarded.

Earlier this year Lynch signed into law a parole reform measure that guarantees no state inmate will ever leave prison without at least nine months of state oversight. Stephen, a former assistant attorney general, wants voters to believe this will make the public less safe. The opposite is true, and he knows it.

"I am appalled that anyone, regardless of party, would think that this is a good idea to let violent criminals out of prison early as Governor Lynch does," Stephen told Monitor reporter Dan Barrick. His claims are being repeated in an advertising campaign by Americans for Prosperity, a group created and heavily funded by the ultraconservative billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

The reforms are aimed at improving public safety. That's not just our view; the new law has the backing of the associations representing New Hampshire's police chiefs and troopers, the corrections commissioner and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Here's the logic: Before the new law, 16 percent of all inmates "maxed out" by serving their complete sentences. Once they did, they were free to live and go where they like, stop attending AA meetings or counseling sessions, and resume their old ways.

Take Lawrence Woodard, who served 26 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for stabbing a social worker 19 times and then maxed out. Woodard, who previously had been found not guilty by reason of insanity in an attempted rape, was a poor prisoner, and the Concord police issued a public warning in advance of his 2006 release. It took only months before Woodard, who was completely unsupervised, was charged with raping a woman in New York.

Or take David Cobb, the former Phillips Academy teacher known as the "Pumpkin Man" for the pumpkin mask he carried with him during attempted sexual assaults. Cobb, who had previously pleaded guilty to Maine charges of unlawful sexual contact with children in 1985, refused to admit his guilt in the New Hampshire case or accept treatment. After his release from prison in 2007 his whereabouts were unknown. He was eventually discovering living, unbeknownst to his neighbors, in a small town on Cape Cod.

The reforms passed by the Legislature and signed by Lynch ensure that every released prisoner is placed under intense supervision for at least nine months, the time period in which offenses by released inmates most often occur. The monitoring can include daily reporting, regular substance abuse testing and counseling. It can involve mental health treatment and a required ankle bracelet that can pinpoint the parolee's location, sense the presence of alcohol and alert authorities immediately if it's removed.

For the state maintain that degree of control over a released inmate's life, however, the inmate must be released before serving the entirety of the sentence. So those who say that inmates, including some who were convicted of violent crimes, are released early - at 19 years and 3 months, for example, rather than after 20 years - are right. But the public is far safer if inmates are monitored during that critical period of readjustment to society than if they aren't.

That's true of violent as well as nonviolent offenders. Claims by Senate Minority Leader Peter Bragdon, a prime sponsor of the reform bill, that he and others failed to understand that violent prisoners would also be subject to release and monitoring are a pathetic excuse.

Stephen knows all this, of course. But he also knows that if he can frighten people enough with his talk of rapists in the streets, he might get elected. That's unconscionable.