New Hampshire prison inmates trying to earn parole, many of them with alcohol and drug abuse backgrounds, face a shortage of treatment programs they need to attend as a condition of being set free, reports the Manchester Union Leader. Alan Coburn, a member of the Adult Parole Board, told a committee studying parole issues yesterday that because treatment options are few, many inmates ready for release remain behind bars for up to a year while they wait their turn.
Substance abuse treatment and mental health counseling are considered keys to the success of a state plan to move inmates out of prison more quickly, and focus corrections costs on the most dangerous inmates in custody. The majority of state prison inmates have drug or alcohol problems. Coburn said demand for treatment 0n release is so great that if beds were to double at the Tirrell House he oversees in Manchester, “those beds would be full tomorrow.” The number of treatment facilities around the state has steadily eroded over the past decade, complicating parole decisions, Coburn said. “In many cases, we feel if we do release them before treatment, they’ll never make it to the program because they’ll relapse while they’re outside waiting,” he said. The study committee on parole practices was established by the Legislature before it passed the more comprehensive Justice Reinvestment Act. The act is meant to cut what the state spends on corrections facilities. It will allow most non-violent inmates to be paroled after they serve 120 percent of their minimum sentence. They will be expected to stick to counseling sessions and other requirements spelled out in the conditions of their parole, or face a guaranteed 90-day return trip to prison.