Concord women’s prison open for business

  • The entrance of the new Concord women’s prison on North State Street in Concord is shown March 26, 2018. The prison welcomed inmates ahead of schedule on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, following reports of leaks in the old Goffstown facility. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 4/17/2018 7:55:53 PM

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections moved inmates into a new women’s prison Tuesday, as heavy rain disrupted services at the old facility in Goffstown.

Under heavy security, the department transported all 147 women to the new facility in Concord, which is located behind the men’s prison on North State Street. The department received assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, New Hampshire State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

The move closes a long legal battle over equal treatment from the state’s female prisoners compared with men.

“It’s a very exciting day for the Department of Corrections and all the women who are in their custody and control,” New Hampshire Legal Aid Paralegal Candace Cappio Gebhart said Tuesday night. “This is a culmination of 25 to 30 years of work by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections and New Hampshire Legal Aid.”

The 101,000-square-foot women’s prison in Concord is triple the size of the Goffstown building, which the state has leased from Hillsborough County for decades. The new facility includes a full-service health services unit, a large educational area and a family center.

On the same day as the move, heavy rain – ushered in by Monday’s storm – caused ceiling leaks in the old women’s prison. As a result, prison officials canceled visits for the safety of the public and those in custody, said department spokesman Jeff Lyons. He added that there will be “a minor disruption in visitation as part of the move,” and that any updates will be announced on the department’s website and social media accounts.

All parties agreed a new facility for women was long overdue, but getting the funding took decades. Female inmates were promised a permanent prison in the late 1980s after a group of them sued the state and won. The lawsuit was filed after concerns arose about inadequate conditions in out-of-state prisons, and about women being so far from their families. Per a federal court order, New Hampshire opened the Goffstown prison, allowing for many women who had been incarcerated outside the state to return.

New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA) brought a new class-action lawsuit several years ago, alleging the state failed to fulfill its obligation to provide female prisoners with equal housing and services available to men. The lawsuit was shelved after legislators authorized construction of the new facility.

Gebhart said since NHLA filed the lawsuit it has monitored the department’s progress on the new women’s prison, and participated in multiple tours as the building was constructed.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.)
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