EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

September 5, 2013

N.H. correctional officer loses bid for pardon

DURHAM — New Hampshire’s Executive Council yesterday denied a pardon for a convicted burglar who went from criminal to college graduate and county corrections officer in less than a decade after being released from jail.

All five councilors commended 28-year-old Thomas Schoolcraft for his achievements, but voted, 3-2, against granting him a pardon, which would have allowed him to further his career in law enforcement.

“Please take from this the admiration members of this council and this governor have for everything you’ve done,” Gov. Maggie Hassan told Schoolcraft, before adjourning the meeting. “We’ll hold you out as a role model.”

Schoolcraft, who sat on the edge of his seat with hands clasped as each councilor spoke, needed several minutes in a remote corner of the ballroom at the University of New Hampshire’s Huddleston Hall to compose himself before thanking the councilors individually for their consideration of his pardon bid.

“It’s hard, but at the same time I just have to let go,” Schoolcraft said. “I respect those decisions that were made.”

Schoolcraft dropped out of school in the ninth grade and pleaded guilty to committing nine burglaries at age 19. He served nine months behind bars then went through a transformation that many have called amazing.

He got his high school equivalency degree, then went to Keene State College to major in criminal justice, earning a bachelor’s degree. He has worked as a corrections officer at the Cheshire County jail for more than two years.

At Keene State, he met Cheshire County House of Corrections Superintendent Rick Van Wickler, who teaches at the school. Van Wickler offered him an internship, then a job as a corrections officer several years ago. He sat alongside Schoolcraft as the votes were cast.

Councilor Ray Burton, the first to speak, said he would vote for a pardon. He said Schoolcraft had “benefited profoundly” from his incarceration. But councilors Chris Sununu, Colin Van Ostern and Christopher Pappas sounded the death knell. All three raised concerns that the crimes occurred less than a decade ago and left homeowners terrified to discover their phone lines cut and their homes violated.

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