N.H. Finally Breaks Ground on Women’s Prison

CONCORD, N.H. — A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Aug. 18 for New Hampshire’s first permanent, all-inclusive women’s prison located in Concord.

“For far too long, our corrections system has woefully neglected women,” said Governor Maggie Hassan at the ceremony. “Today’s groundbreaking of the new women’s prison is a significant step forward for the State of New Hampshire, marking the culmination of a decades-long effort that will help make our communities safer, ensure fairness in our criminal justice system and provide stability to our state’s budget.”

The idea for the new facility — 20 years in the making — was first conceived in the late 1980s when a group of female inmates sued the state and won. Since that lawsuit, the state began incarcerating female offenders in the former county jail in Goffstown as a temporary solution. However, the jail has served as the main facility for female inmates ever since.

A new lawsuit filed in 2012 alleged that the state did not fulfill its promise to provide female inmates with housing and services equal to male prisoners. As a result, legislators authorized $38 million for the new facility to be built.

“By restoring fairness for men and women in our corrections system, we will save the state millions in long-term legal costs from what inevitably would’ve been a lengthy legal process,” Gov. Hassan said at the ceremony.

The facility will consist of four buildings, including a main unit offering 24-7 health services, programming and education space, an indoor-outdoor visitation area, industries wing and secure housing beds. The prison will feature 224 beds initially but includes additional space that could be expanded to 350 should the need occur in the future. It will have two general population units — one of which will provide services for inmates with mental health and substance abuse needs — and one minimum-custody unit.

“Public safety goes beyond the dedicated work of our police, firefighters and EMTs, and it goes beyond our judicial system,” Gov. Hassan said at the ceremony. “It is critical to the safety of our communities that our corrections system has modern facilities to keep dangerous criminals off the streets, as well as programs and resources to reduce recidivism.”

Bedford, N.H.-based Gilbane Construction Co. is overseeing the first phase of the project, while Portland, Maine-based SMRT designed the prison and will also oversee construction. The prison is scheduled to open in 2016.