Prison audits find disparity in services for female inmates
CONCORD - Two performance audits of the Department of Corrections say some of the department's long-standing personnel policies may be keeping inmates in prison past their parole dates.
The audits of the department's security and non-security staffing also highlight the disparity between services women and men inmates receive in the corrections system. A federal lawsuit has already been filed by women inmates charging they receive fewer services than men inmates.
The audits were done by the Legislative Budget Assistant's Office at the request of the Joint Audit Committee.
The non-security staffing audit notes, "Of particular concern was staffing for the New Hampshire State Prison for Women. Insufficient non-security staffing has been a factor in the State's inability to provide female inmates programs and services 'on parity' with those provided to male inmates. Not providing equivalent services puts the state at risk for further legal action and may negatively affect female inmate rehabilitation."
Of particular note for auditors were vocational programs, and intervention, recreational and library services for women prisoners.
Department of Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn didn't dispute the auditors but said many of the problems will not be solved until there is a new women's prison. Women are housed in what was the old Hillsborough County Jail in Goffstown and at Strafford County Jail under a per diem contract.
Wrenn told the committee overcrowding is getting worse, not better, with the passage of Senate Bill 52, which undid much of the program to place violent offenders in community-based programs before their release date in an attempt to reduce the number of inmates who are released but eventually return to prison.
The audit also notes that short staffing in the sexual offenders treatment programs have created backlogs resulting in some prisoners remaining in prison after their parole date. "One program employee reported the program had not been fully staffed for a very long period of time and there have been backlogs for years," according to the audit.
Auditors note as of July 2012, 350 sexual offenders were waiting for their initial assessment for programs.
Wrenn noted employees have decreased in each of the last two biennial budgets. But he noted the sexual offender treatment programs have been revamped with much better results.
In the audit of security staffing, auditors wrote "several factors have combined to create a staffing environment which may become unsustainable."
Auditors note with employee reductions some personnel are forced to work overtime often one shift a week every week of the year.
Auditors suggest part-time employees be hired to cover some shifts instead of using overtime. They noted the overtime budget has doubled in two years in some areas.
"If the DOC had employed 25 part-time personnel for 24 hours per week in lieu of using overtime, the DOC could have saved approximately $884,000 over the audit period in wages alone," according to the report. The audit period covers fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
The auditors also note employees can earn compensation time at a rate of 1.5 hours for overtime work, yet when these employees are off, other officers are paid overtime to cover the shifts.
Another concern is supervisory officers assigning themselves to cover shifts and duties while receiving higher wages than corrections officers working overtime.
They also recommend shift differential pay be addressed. "During the audit period, $1.2 million was unnecessarily expended on salaries for evening and night shift differential payments for uniformed employees. Uniformed employees were listed as law enforcement personnel in the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) and law enforcement personnel were ineligible for shift differentials," according to the audit.
Wrenn said while the department has tried to address many of the issues raised in the audit, the changes were fought by unions and the department lost several arbitration cases.
"Many of these things we tried to do but we hit a road block," Wrenn said. "Some of these practices date back to 1990s."
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Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.