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Site work to begin on N.H. women’s prison this summer

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections said ground will be broken for a new women’s prison this summer, two decades after the state was ordered to provide female inmates the same services as their male counterparts.

Assistant Commissioner William McGonagle told the Portsmouth Herald that the future site for the prison – behind the men’s prison in Concord – will be leveled in late July or early August.

The state has scheduled three meetings in March to allow the design to be reviewed by stakeholders including city and state elected officials, public policy experts, abutters, mental health advocates and the group that sued the state over the current prison.

The lawsuit, filed by New Hampshire Legal Assistance, alleges that the state’s male prisoners have access to more mental health services, a full-time special education instructor, on-site college-level education, vocational training and addiction programs for inmates who do not also have mental illness. It comes 20 years after the state was ordered to provide comparable services as a result of a federal lawsuit.

The recent lawsuit was put on hold when $38 million was allocated last year for the construction of the new prison, which will replace the Goffstown facility the state began leasing on a “temporary basis” 24 years ago.

The first stakeholder meeting will be held March 10, followed by two others on March 12 and March 19.

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