COVID Compliance within the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. - Granite Grok

COVID Compliance within the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.

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TO: Governor Sununu, Senate President Morse, House Speaker Packard, House Criminal Justice Committee, New Hampshire State Senators, JLCAR Chair and Co-Chair, Attorney General Formella, DOC Commissioner Hanks, NH ACLU.

SUBJECT: COVID compliance within the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.

Initially, the Department of Corrections (DOC) distributed blue paper masks to inmates while recruiting inmates to make cloth masks for first-responders when supplies were limited. I bet you didn’t know that!


We want to thank Howard Coffman for this op-ed. If you have a Letter or other content
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Currently, inmates are given one or two masks on arrival, depending on available inventory. It’s up to the inmate to wash them for reuse. If they wear out, it is the inmate’s responsibility to buy a cloth replacement mask for $2.95 each.

To be clear, inmates are required to wear masks in all common areas, even while on video calls which are made in the corner of a large room more than six feet away from anyone else.

$2.95 is a lot to pay for one cotton mask. To put this in perspective, this $2.95 mask replacement cost is equivalent to a day-and-a-half of inmate pay.

If they can get a prison job, most inmates earn $2.15 a day (not per hour). Some earn $3.15 a day. The number of hours and days varies on the work assignment.

While many inmates receive money from family and friends, many do not. The DOC payment model gives most inmates a whopping $10.00 a week to buy shampoo, soap, ramen noodles, clothes, and durable goods like a TV, hot plate, tablet computer ($150), or to make phone calls.

Buying mandatory face masks is not a burden any inmate should carry.

Here’s where things really move into The Twilight Zone. Women working in the warehouse receive a new mask at the beginning of each 3-hour shift. While women working a 7-day, 5-hour shift in the kitchen does not receive a mask at all. It is their responsibility to provide their own PPE.

In reality, women inmates reuse and repair their masks. Sometimes they share their masks which are against the rules. Nowhere in this situation are there provisions for washing or sanitizing masks on a consistent basis—quite the opposite.

Understanding the economics of the situation, is it any wonder PPE is shared?  It’s safe to say that requiring face masks and not providing them, especially for kitchen workers, undermines institutional health and safety.

Like folks outside of prison, inmates are also feeling the social pressure to “take-the-jab.” On the outside, we are seeing public policies being developed that give privileges to those persons who “take-the-jab” while denying things to persons who do not.  This same control strategy is being floated inside the New Hampshire Department of Corrections.

It’s unofficially suggested that those inmates who take the jab will be able to resume in-person visits, attend self-improvement classes, get yard time and eat in groups. Inmates who do not “take-the-jab,” will apparently be denied these same activities. Essentially, they will be treated differently and punished for making a personal health decision not to take an experimental medical treatment.

Not only is this discrimination, but it’s also blatant institutional coercion, bullying, and intimidation.

As a result of not “taking-the-jab,” inmates will likely be confined to their housing unit, forced to eat alone or only in the unit, and not be able to attend court-ordered programming for parole, educational classes, religious services, and any form of personal enrichment classes or activities such as going to the gym, playing volleyball, and making gifts via arts & crafts activities.

Although it’s only a proposal, its implementation is likely. Currently, there is no information forthcoming, and it is completely unknown if the legislature will be involved in reviewing and approving the regulatory changes likely needed for implementation.

In addition to the restrictions and limitations stated above, inmates will likely lose the opportunity to reduce their sentence through a program called “Earned Time.”

The Earned Time program has very specific predefined criteria that enable an inmate to reduce their sentence in 2-month increments up to a maximum of 22 months. For example, completing a series of 10 classes can earn an inmate a 2-month sentence reduction. Without Earned Time, prison sentences will become longer, and the costs of incarceration will increase. These added expenses are a big deal to an organization that proposed closing its halfway houses in the current budget. Let’s not forget the impact of longer sentences on the inmates and their families.

Let’s be clear; many inmates have acquired COVID from DOC staff. They have been quarantined, locked down, and their interaction with other inmates severely limited and restricted. As a result, these inmates have acquired natural immunity and possess antibodies. Why should they be coerced to taking an experimental treatment to receive antibodies that they already have?

Should these proposed vaccine-related restrictions go into effect, many inmates will be punished for making an informed personal medical choice that is legally protected.

The Nuremberg Trials of the 1950s after World War II produced legal doctrine that said no one individual could be forced to receive experimental medical procedures without informed consent. COVID shots have only been approved as experimental treatments. No medical emergency has been declared.

Like all bureaucracies, the DOC has regulations that govern the department. These regulations have the force of law and go through a public and legislative review and comment process.

There are actually two regulations that protect inmates in this situation.

Cor 502.04  Emergency Medication and Other Emergency Treatment.

(a)  A physician or APRN in a facility shall prescribe medication as a form of emergency treatment, to be administered without the resident’s consent at the time a personal safety emergency is declared.  Such authorization shall be countersigned by the ordering physician or APRN within 24 hours of the order for involuntary administration of the medication.

(b)  When emergency medication is ordered, the resident shall be offered, whenever feasible, a choice of taking the medication orally or by injection.

(c)  Psychosurgery, electroconvulsive therapy, sterilization, or experimental treatment of any kind shall not be used as involuntary emergency treatment.

It’s important to remember that the COVID-19 shot is an experimental medical protocol authorized under the emergency use authorization act. As such, it cannot be mandated for anyone, nor can informed consent be circumvented.

Cor 502.08  Involuntary Non-Emergency Medical Treatment.

Except as provided in Cor 502.07 and 504.04, medical treatment shall be administered only with the consent of the resident or the resident’s duly appointed legal guardian.  In the event a resident is legally incapacitated, as defined in RSA 464-A:2, XI, to consent to medical treatment which, in the opinion of the departmental physician, or APRN, would tend to promote the physical or behavioral health of the resident, and the resident does not have a legal guardian, the director of medical and forensic services shall consult with and refer the matter to the department of justice who shall petition the appropriate court for the appointment of a guardian or guardian ad litem pursuant to RSA 464-A.

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections is contemplating using the COVID pandemic to punish inmates that might exercise their protected voice in their own health care decisions. They are about to push the limits of international and federal law, HIPPA, and DOC regulations.

While DOC is not forcing inmates to “take-the-jab,” they are indirectly threatening, intimidating, and coercing inmates to do so by the threat of restricting their daily activities.

I am specifically asking you, as our elected officials, to ensure that the incarcerated are protected from coerced experimental medical treatments and that the regulations currently in place are observed.

One has to wonder what the financial impact is on the DOC budget? Who is paying for the vaccine? Who pays for all the PPE? Is this federal or state money? Has anyone in the DOC or the Attorney General’s office considered the legal implications of “separate but equal” and the international, federal, and HIPPA laws that are about to be violated?

And finally, what is the role of the legislature in approving the budget changes and the regulatory changes necessary for implementation? Has the AG’s office been consulted on the legal ramifications of these potential policy changes?

Thank you all. I look forward to administrative and legislative review and approval of these proposed policies, as well as the public announcement and opportunity for comment.

Please contact me with any questions.

Sincerely,

Howard Coffman
Nashua, NH 03063

 

 

Distribution:
governorsununu@nh.gov
sherman.packard@leg.state.nh.us
senators@leg.state.nh.us
HouseCriminalJusticeandPublicSafety@leg.state.nh.us
carol@mcguire4house.com
helen.hanks@doc.nh.gov
attorneygeneral@doj.nh.gov

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