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Staff Layoffs Continue as NH Prisons Swell with Inmates

June 22, 2009

CONCORD, N.H. - Thirty-two corrections officers have received pink slips over the last few days, and more layoffs could be on the way. It's part of a series of cuts at New Hampshire's prisons that began back in 2003.

The Lakes Region Corrections Facility is set to close in July, and prisoners are being relocated to facilities in Concord and Berlin. However, these institutions are running above capacity now, according to Concord State Prison corrections officer Lt. Paul Cascio.

"That means over-crowding for the North Country facility. They have a capacity of 500 and they're up to over 750, I believe. There is over-crowding at the Concord facility, as well."

Cascio says the prisons already are short-staffed, and with the number of inmates increasing and the staff decreasing, many corrections officers are worried about staff and prisoner safety. Some lawmakers say the layoffs are necessary to help the cash-strapped state.

District One executive councilor Ray Burton has been following the issue. He says he will work closely with the governor and with Commissioner Wrenn with whatever resources are available.

"We've got to ensure the safety of our state employees, and the safety of the inmates we are required by law to care for."

The Master Bargaining Team for the State Employees Union, which represents the corrections officers, has proposed a plan for saving money without cutting jobs. It uses measures such as a volunteer leave-without-pay program, one-year wage freeze and benefits restructuring. Negotiations are expected to continue for the next few weeks.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH