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August 25, 2013

N.H. police officials back inmate program

E. Kingston incident not reflective of program

When a Rockingham County jail inmate was charged with stealing drugs from the East Kingston Police Department evidence room, it cast a shadow over the jail’s work program.

But local police officials, who question how that could have been allowed to happen, say the “trusty program” saves their towns thousands of dollars a year and is a valuable community resource.

It also helps rehabilitate nonviolent inmates so they can successfully re-enter society, police said.

For that reason, the program — shuttered for several weeks while it was re-evaluated — is continuing, jail superintendent Stephen Church said.

Rockingham County Attorney James Reams announced last week that inmate Jarred Brisbois, 20, was indicted by a grand jury on burglary, heroin possession and smuggling charges.

Brisbois, previously convicted of theft, was left unsupervised at the police station in May and broke into the evidence room while participating in the inmate work program.

He faces up to seven years in prison on each of the three felony charges for stealing heroin and trying to bring some of it back to the jail. Police also said Brisbois used some of the drugs, which included marijuana, at the station.

Some Southern New Hampshire police officials whose departments use the inmate work program say what happened in East Kingston was an isolated incident that is not a true reflection of the program’s value.

The program involves nearly 40 of the roughly 300 inmates at the county jail. They work from two days to five days a week at seven police departments and the Rockingham County complex, including the nursing home, Church said.

The workers are carefully screened and have not been convicted of serious, violent crimes, Church said. They usually have driving and drug-related convictions, he said.

“It’s all about inmate classification,” said Church, who has worked at the jail for 25 years, including three as superintendent.

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