Facts and Policy Reforms for New Hampshire
Like most states, New Hampshire’s prison population has exploded in recent decades.
Between 1980 and 2016, the state’s prison population increased in size nearly nine-fold, and admissions to New Hampshire prisons increased by 24 percent. This growth can be attributed in large part to an increase in admissions for violations of parole and probation. These community supervision violations accounted for 60 percent of all admissions to New Hampshire prisons in 2016. Drug-related convictions also played a significant role, with one in seven people serving time in prison for a drug offense. The growth of this population was made worse by the imposition of longer sentences in recent years. In addition to prisons, New Hampshire incarcerates an estimated 1,613 people in jails, according to the most recently available data. All of this incarceration is expensive: The state spent $109 million from the general fund on corrections in 2017.
Unsurprisingly, New Hampshire’s mass incarceration crisishas had a disproportionate impact on people of color, especially Black people. In 2016, the Black adult incarceration rate in New Hampshire was more than five times as high as the white adult incarceration rate. Although Black people accounted for only 1 percent of the adult population in New Hampshire that year, they constituted 7 percent of the prison population. Ending mass incarceration is a critical step towards addressing racial disparities in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system as well as its broader society.
Women are also being sent to prison in New Hampshire at alarming rates. Between 2006 and 2016, the number of women in New Hampshire prisons increased by 32 percent while the number of men in New Hampshire prisons decreased by 2 percent.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
New Hampshire lawmakers have already made significant efforts to reduce incarceration by enacting bail reform and decriminalizing up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana, among other reforms. The state can continue to dramatically reduce its prison population by implementing the following sensible reforms:
- Leveraging budgetary authority to ensure funding for alternatives to incarceration for people with mental health needs and substance use issues.
- Reducing or eliminating prison time for certain drug related offenses, particularly first time drug offenses.
- Enacting a system of graduated sanctions for probation and parole violations.
- Amending New Hampshire’s criminal code to reduce sentencing ranges, particularly for drug offenses, burglary, robbery, public order offenses, and assault.
- Enacting occupational licensing reform that limits inquiry into most applicants’ criminal records.
- Repealing laws that require the suspension or revocation of drivers’ licenses as consequence of non-motor vehicle related offenses.
If New Hampshire were to follow these and other reforms in this Smart Justice 50 State Blueprint, 1,323 fewer people would be in prison in the state by 2025, saving over $91 million that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of New Hampshire’s prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.