By Tom Jarvis and Scott Merrill

Manchester Police Athletic League Intervention Program Coordinator Evenor Pineda (left) and ACLU New Hampshire Smart Justice Campaign Manager Joseph Lascaze – both former NHSP inmates – at the Officer Michael Briggs Community Center. Photo by Scott Merrill

People reentering the community after leaving the New Hampshire state prison system face overlapping challenges that many on the outside might fail to notice. These challenges range from basic needs – obtaining housing, employment, transportation, and identification – to coping with institutionalization and finding adequate care for behavioral and substance misuse disorders.

ACLU New Hampshire Smart Justice Campaign Manager Joseph Lascaze served more than 13 years in the New Hampshire State Prison (NHSP) for armed robbery and was released on parole in 2019. He compares a formerly incarcerated person’s struggles to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Those needs include physiological necessities, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

“When a person goes through the reentry processes, we’re asking them to become a productive member of society, to fulfill a level of self-actualization, and to contribute to the community,” Lascaze says. “And before any of those things can happen, which is the desire of rehabilitated people, the basic needs, things like employment and housing, have to be met.”

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 600,000 people reenter communities from state and federal prisons each year. Aside from an extremely rare governor’s pardon, there are only two ways to officially leave prison: parole and maxing out. Parole is conditional early release based on good behavior and is supervised by a Probation and Parole Officer (PPO). Maxing out is unsupervised release after fulfilling the imposed sentence.

Generally, most inmates are granted parole. Those that max out either have a robust disciplinary record inside the prison resulting in denial of parole or they choose not to seek parole. This can happen when inmates don’t feel they have the resources to succeed in the community, says attorney Anthony Naro, who has represented numerous incarcerated individuals.

“I think some people go into their parole board hearing with the intent that they’re going to max out because they have nothing on the outside,” he says. “It’s tough if you don’t have resources and/or family. If you’ve been in prison for a couple of years, you’ve just lost two years of work, two years of building relationships with people, and two years of getting yourself established. In this world, it’s hard enough to do that without a felony record.”


Pre-Parole Plans and Working with a PPO

In December 2023, there were 1,657 people on parole in New Hampshire.

When coming up for parole, inmates work with their correctional case manager – assigned to them upon admission to prison – to create a pre-parole plan for the parole board to review. The plan details the inmate’s intentions upon release, such as where they propose to live, where they will try to find work, and whether they will obtain counseling or drug treatment. They are then assigned a PPO within the county they intend to live.

“A lot of what we do is in conjunction with treatment providers for substance use disorders, sex offenders, domestic violence cases, batterers, things like that,” says Chief PPO Kelly Olsen. “We do assessments, how they go through treatment and what their underlying issues or concerns are and what triggers them. That will come out in the pre-parole plan, and we review it for what is needed to be enforced based upon what we’ve been told by the parole board or the court. When they come out into the community, their treatment’s already set up. And then we just connect with the treatment provider.”

Naro believes that parolees should also be assigned a social worker to address the specific needs inmates face.

“I’ve seen PPOs at trainings, and I appreciate that they are educating their staff about evidence-based sentencing, substance abuse disorders, and mental health disorders so they know what they are dealing with, but at the end of the day, they are not social workers. They are officers” he says. “It’s not fair, in my view, to put that load on their shoulders. If you’re on probation or parole, you should have a social worker. I think that PPOs are asked to do more than they should have to do in terms of social services.”

For Evenor Pineda, who was released on parole from the NHSP in 2020 after serving 15 years of an 18-year sentence for manslaughter, the countdown toward his parole date was filled with anxiety.

“I had no idea what I was going to do when I got out and as I got closer, I was grasping at straws,” he says. “I had wrapped up my high school diploma in 2011 and as time progressed, I was able to get into one of the very few positions that allowed me to work with technology – but I had zero idea where I was going.”

Today, Pineda works for the Manchester Police Athletic League as a program coordinator for at-risk young people.

While in prison, Pineda says he was able to take advantage of a CDL preparation course and eventually was moved to a minimum-security unit that allowed him to work on a road crew as part of a Department of Transportation program.

“It was a great experience,” he says, adding that he was intially hesitant about it. “I asked myself, ‘is this worth my time? Is this something I want to do?’ I signed up but the problem was that the program was new and there wasn’t a clear-cut path to an actual hired position.”

Work Pipelines

Lascaze says simply getting hired, let alone finding a meaningful career path and a living wage, can be difficult. Shortly after his release, he was hired by Amazon, but the company rescinded its offer after running a background check.

“A criminal background becomes a stigma or a stain that a lot of companies don’t want to get past,” Lascaze says. “Unfortunately, this is the case for many people coming back to the community.”

Lascaze says he is committed to finding workforce pipelines from the NHSP and has been in conversation with the Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

“We need to increase the workforce in New Hampshire, and we also need to make sure that we are providing formerly incarcerated people with jobs that are going to provide for their cost of living and not just to put them in jobs where they live paycheck to paycheck and under stress,” he says, adding that many formerly incarcerated people have skills and experiences that are valuable.

Some New Hampshire organizations, like the non-profit Community Action Partnership of Strafford County (CAP), provide reentry services through community-based programs including employment, transitional housing, substance abuse treatment, counseling, education, and mental health services. CAP accomplishes this using practical interactions including individual and group settings.

Pineda distinguishes between menial work and meaningful work.

“People don’t need some menial job where guys might turn to crime again,” he says. “When they even start entertaining those habits that they had before, it’s almost addictive. And then they just return. That’s part of the reason why the recidivism rate is so high.”

Approved Residences and Transitional Housing Units

Once a parolee chooses where they intend to live, their PPO must approve the residence. If known felons reside there or the dwelling is otherwise unsafe or unsuitable, the PPO may reject it.

“I know of instances where someone can’t even live with or have contact with their spouse because they are also felons,” says attorney Tracy Scavarelli. “Or if they are in recovery and their spouse is still struggling with substances, they don’t want to allow that association to go forward. Often, PPOs will try to make exceptions for those situations, though.”

Parolees must also consent to searches of their residence by a PPO, including their bedroom and all other common areas.

If a parolee cannot find suitable housing, they can apply to live at a transitional housing unit/work center (THU), formerly known as halfway houses.

The New Hampshire Department of Corrections (DOC) operates three THUs in Concord – Shea Farm THU for women, North End THU for men, and the Concord Transitional Work Center – and one in Manchester, the Calumet House. These houses are primarily used for C1 and C2 inmates nearing the end of their minimum sentence. The C2 inmates have different house jobs while living there, while C1s and parolees can work in the community.

Calumet House in Manchester is the second largest of the DOC’s transitional housing units/work centers, accommodating up to 68 residents. Photo by Tom Jarvis

“We are here to help transition residents from incarceration behind the walls of the prison back into the community,” Shea Farm Program Coordinator Chelsey Jones says. “By doing that, we offer them the ability to obtain employment, get insurance, and connect to their reentry supports while they are still incarcerated.”

While residing in transitional housing, a parolee (or C1 inmate) works with a case manager who assists them in their reentry.

“We primarily rely on community providers for any resident programming needs,” Calumet House Case Manager David Burris says. “We do have mental health specialists, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, a psychiatrist, and a nurse practitioner that come down on occasion and meet with them, though. But mostly we rely on medical and behavioral health community access.”

Burris continues: “We do have a lack of programming when it comes to substance abuse, though. We don’t have access to the kind of programming that we should. I don’t think 30 days in a residential treatment program is good enough for a lot of these guys. I’ve actually encouraged people to find treatment outside of New Hampshire because there are better options out there.”

Other transitional housing for parolees includes county facilities and privately-owned operations such as Dismas Home, which serves justice-involved women who have been diagnosed with substance use disorder and co-occurring mental illness.

Inmates who are released after having maxed out their sentence receive no support when they leave.

According to a 2016 Council of State Governments report, more than 10 percent of those coming in and out of prisons and jails are homeless in the months preceding and following their incarceration. Additionally, a report by the Prison Policy Initiative states that, “formerly incarcerated people are almost 10 times more likely to be homeless than the general public.”

Scavarelli says inmates who have maxed out are given the clothing they came in with and are released onto the street whether they have a ride or not.

“I’ve gone to the prison for visits and have seen a person just walking away and I knew that’s what’s happening,” she says. “At that moment, they don’t have a ride; they are just walking down the street aimlessly, sometimes not knowing where they’re going and not having anything on hand. They may not have earned or had the ability to earn any money while in the prison. So, they’re literally just walking the streets without a plan. It’s disheartening.”

Legislation Addressing Mental Health and Substance Misuse

Pineda says many people inside prison suffer from behavioral and substance misuse disorders that they take with them when they leave.

“A lot of guys are on medication and that presents another challenge for them when they get out,” he says, explaining the need for insurance to pay for medication.

Several bills are being introduced in 2024 that address behavioral health and substance use challenges prisoners face. New Hampshire State Senator Rebecca Whitley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of a committee that studied the state’s parole and probation system, is introducing more than ten bills that address prisoner needs both upon reentry and before.

Senate Bill 508 would require the superintendent of the county department of corrections to oblige contracted behavioral health treatment providers to use validated screening tools for mental health and substance use disorders. It would also permit licensed community-based treatment providers, where they are available, to have contact with people in custody for the purpose of coordinating services upon reentry into the community.

“This will allow our community mental health centers who meet various security criteria to access people while they are still in custody,” Whitley says. “That is a way to get them connected with services before they leave our jails and to start coordinating those services. This is easier than getting connected to services after they leave.”

She says some of the state’s jails, which are run by individual counties, are doing this well, while others are not.

“This is just a way to standardize it across the state,” she says.

Another bill in the works is Senate Bill 410, which would establish a mental health community and transitional housing fund. The bill addresses both certified community residences and supported housing, provided by Community Behavioral Health Centers throughout the state.

Whitley says the Parole Committee finds that a lot of recidivism comes down to inadequate community-based services. “People leaving jails and prisons need to have the broad array of services available to keep them from committing other crimes,” she says.

Senate Bill 410 is also important in terms of addressing the boarding crisis around psychiatric hospitalization, Whitley says.

“A lot of this is a back door problem because we don’t have adequate places to discharge people,” she says. “[This bill] is peripherally related but it’s a very important piece of the puzzle.”

Institutionalization and Post Incarceration Syndrome

Institutionalization is a phenomenon based in post-traumatic stress that sometimes occurs when inmates serving long sentences become so conditioned to the structure and regimen of prison life that they have trouble coping with their newfound freedom upon release.

Post Incarceration Syndrome, or Post-Traumatic Prison Disorder, is described by addiction specialist Terence Gorski as a combination of post-traumatic stress disorder, institutionalization, antisocial personality traits, social-sensory deprivation syndrome, and substance use disorder.

These conditions can further complicate a person’s success on the outside.

The Life After Prison Executive Director Mike Curry spent a combined 21 years in state and federal prisons. He used his time behind bars to educate himself and now assists formerly incarcerated people with reentry. Courtesy Photo

“A lot of people can’t adhere to normal life and the things they were once familiar with when they come home from a long stint in prison,” says Recidivism Strategist Mike Curry. A former Massachusetts prison inmate, Curry is the executive director of The Life After Prison, Inc., and the program coordinator for the Bridge Project, both of which are Massachusetts organizations that provide support to returning citizens. “Most people don’t know they are institutionalized until they come home. I spent over 21 years total in my lifetime in prison, and when I came home, I was institutionalized without even knowing it.”

Scavarelli says some of her formerly incarcerated clients tend to sit in corners, refusing to have their back to an open room, so they can see any potential risks. Others, she says, have difficulty making autonomous decisions.

Based on what he has observed in clients, Naro believes institutionalization stems from the trauma of being incarcerated, which includes the removal of basic freedoms. This can lead to various forms of antisocial behavior, he explains.

“Prison is not a rehabilitative environment,” he says. “It’s a violent and dangerous place. It is a place where people become depressed and suffer trauma that they carry with them far beyond their sentence. When some people come out of prison and they’re free, they don’t know how to be free.”

Naro recalls a client who had been in and out of prison in what he calls “doing life on the installment plan.” Naro was representing him in a trial and asked one of the deputies if he could bring his client lunch so he wouldn’t have to eat the food they serve there. He dropped off a pulled pork sandwich from his favorite restaurant and when he came back later asked how it was. The client said he threw it out and ate the bologna sandwich the deputies served him.

“I was angry with him,” Naro says. “I asked him what the problem was, and he said, ‘Tony, what do you want from me? I’m institutionalized. I eat the bologna sandwich.’ This guy was starving, and he had this beautiful pulled pork sandwich, but he ate the institutional food because that’s just who he had become.”

Pineda says the degree of institutionalization a person experiences can depend on factors such as the amount of time an inmate serves, as well as how early in their lives a person enters the criminal justice system.

“I always had my eye on the streets, and I had a light at the end of that tunnel, and I kept my eye on that. Plus, I went in older; I was 23 years old,” he says, comparing his experience to a friend who has spent 29 years in prison. “Some of these guys have been locked up since they were 11 or 12 years old. My friend has been locked up since he was 14. He has had the benefit of a friend group that helps with necessities you need at the halfway house. But not everybody has that friend group or that family support.”

Pineda says that for some, the thought of being on the outside can be terrifying, explaining that some of the people he met inside would find it very difficult to function without the structure provided by the prison system.

“It’s all they know,” he says. “And they have basically embraced that.”

Dealing With Change and Reoffending

     In some cases, overcoming the challenges of reentry, reconnecting with family, and juggling a new life and job can prove to be too much. Without consistent support systems, access to resources, and positive intervention, a newly released offender is at risk of returning to a life of crime and creating more victims of crime in local communities.

“If you went to prison in the late 80s or early 90s, a lot has changed in technology, social media, and the scope of how the world works,” Olsen says. “So, now you’re not just asking somebody to reintegrate into the community, you’re also asking them to basically learn a whole new way of life. You might have some people that think it’s too much for them and want to go back. So, they might purposely sabotage themselves or do something that puts them in a place where you might be forced to bring them back.”

Scavarelli says she has seen some clients purposely reoffend.

“They commit smaller crimes and go to the jail, say for the winter,” she says. “I’ve definitely had a few clients that have told me that and asked me not to request bail, so they had a safe, warm place to live during the winter months. It breaks your heart when you know that’s what they’re doing.”

Sometimes parolees are sent back to prison for violating parole but PPOs, Olsen says, generally work with them to prevent that.

“I’ve been a PPO for over 22 years. We don’t arrest somebody because they crack open a beer can. That’s not the nature of what we do,” Olsen says. “They are worked with, connected to alternative programming, connected to assisted therapies like MAT [medication-assisted treatment], given verbal warnings, given written warnings. There is also alternative sanctioning like seven-day beds at the halfway house – where they stay at the halfway house for seven days instead of going back to prison. It cleans the slate of that violation.”

Olsen says PPOs care deeply about the people they work with.

“We want this person to be successful,” she says. “It doesn’t help me for them not to be successful. It doesn’t help the community at large if they are still committing crimes and hurting others or themselves.”

Burris agrees, saying that, “In the end, there are some bad people that we have [in the THU], there’s no doubt. Despite our best efforts, some of them may never be good people. On the other hand, there are people who come into prison as bad people, and they leave as decent people. Sometimes they still struggle, and they may reoffend because they’re struggling on the outside and just do better in a controlled atmosphere. But there are guys who take the programming seriously and really get a lot out of it. It’s never hopeless.”

Transportation, Identification, and Technology

     Finding transportation can be a major barrier to success for inmates reentering the community.

     “Inherently in the state of New Hampshire, because of the nature of the way the state is set up, there are few sections that have public transportation,” Chief PPO Kelly Olsen says. “That in and of itself is a huge issue [for parolees]. They have a program through Medicaid where they can get rides, but those rides don’t come to the parole office, only to treatment or behavioral-based things.”

     Even if a person can secure their own vehicle, changes in technology can also present problems for people incarcerated for long periods.

     “Technology has rapidly increased over the last 15 to 20 years, so it’s amazing to see what changes they come out to and how they’re not equipped to deal with it,” attorney Tracy Scavarelli says. “Even the changing of automobiles. One of my clients who loved cars told me he would look out the window often at the prison and try to identify the different changes in the cars driving by. He was just amazed by the changes that have been coming out. And when he first got out, he had to learn how to drive again. It’s an entirely different type of vehicle than he was used to. Now it’s a computer on wheels. It’s those little things that folks don’t think about when people are first getting out – how the world has changed while their world has stayed stagnant.”

     Recidivism Strategist Mike Curry explains that another barrier people face during reintegration is obtaining identification and other official documents.

     “When I first came home from prison, [the Registry of Motor Vehicles] asked me for a proof of address, and I didn’t have a proof of address,” he says. “How can I have a proof of address if I don’t have bills or an address to send a bill to? So, it took me a little longer to get a government ID.”

NHBA Prison Series Acknowledgments

The New Hampshire Bar News team would like to thank the New Hampshire Bar Foundation for their gracious justice grant – the Charles W. Dean Trust Fund – which made this series possible, as well as the following individuals who were either featured in the series or provided background information:


Donna Brown – Wadleigh, Starr & Peters
Meredith Lugo – New Hampshire Public Defender
Robin Melone – Pastori Krans
Anthony Naro – Bernazzani Law Firm
Andrew Offit – Offit Law Firm
Roger Phillips – Phillips Law Office and NH Adult Parole Board Chair
Tracy Scavarelli – Granite State Law

Current Inmates:

Oliver Hooper – New Hampshire State Prison
Zebadiah Kellogg-Roe – New Hampshire State Prison
Christopher Slayback – New Hampshire State Prison

Former Inmates:

Mike Curry – The Life After Prison Executive Director
Tony Hebert – Prime Source Foods Driver
Joseph Lascaze – ACLU Smart Justice Campaign Manager
Evenor Pineda – Manchester Police Athletic League Program Coordinator

New Hampshire Department of Corrections:

Heather Bragdon – Strafford County THU Program Director
David Burris – Calumet House Corrections Case Manager
Jane Graham – DOC Public Information Officer
Chelsey Jones – Shea Farm Program Coordinator
Joshua Leonard – Calumet House Program Coordinator
Kelly Olsen – Chief Probation/Parole Officer
Seifu Ragassa – Chief Probation/Parole Officer


Cheryll Andrews – Dismas Home Executive Director
Shannon Desilets – Choose Love Program Founder
Kevin Dugan – The Council of State Governments
Jay Mackey – Director of Operations, NH Adult Parole Board
Mike Wessler – The Prison Policy Initiative
Rebecca Whitley – New Hampshire State Senator