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Bar News - December 19, 2008

Two-Day Sentencing Conference Draws More Than 300


Thanks to a recent statewide symposium on alternative sentencing, every county in the state now has a measured action plan for the further study and eventual implementation of local alternative sentencing and treatment programs.

The much-anticipated program – Opportunities for Alternative Sentencing – was held at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord on November 6 and 7, and drew a crowd of more than 300 – composed of members from every segment of society involved in the sentencing practices of the state, from corrections officials and prosecutors to public defenders and prior offenders.

The event was sponsored by a number of groups, including: the NH Judicial Branch; the NH-DOC; the NH-DHHS; the NH Association of Counties; the NH Judicial Council; the Justice Center Council of State Governments; and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill New Hampshire branch.

The two-day symposium hosted several national speakers who each provided unique insight into the national alternative sentencing movement.

"The conference didn’t set out to spur the creation of grandiose projects; the focus was on what we can do in our own communities," said NH Public Defender Director Chris Keating. "I know that police, prosecutors, probation officers and judges want to avoid sending offenders to jail when jail is not the most appropriate response. But without safe, reliable programming, [there are] no alternatives but incarceration, and we pay a high price, literally and figuratively, in doing so."

During the conference, members from the various parties of the criminal justice systems of each county separated into groups to discuss issues directly related to each location. According to the event organizer Superior Court Judge Tina Nadeau, the results were impressive.

"The most exciting thing for me was the fact that each county came away from it with an action plan," said Nadeau. "Whether it was a council that would meet to discuss the issue further or a desire to develop a jail diversion program, everyone left with something to look forward to and something that would keep up the momentum."

The topic of alternative sentencing will come up once again at the 2009 Midyear Meeting, where Cathy Green, the NHBA liaison to the NH State Senate Commission on Alternative Sentencing, Judge Tina Nadeau, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, will facilitate a CLE program - Sentencing Reform: NH’s Initiatives to Redesign the Criminal Justice System.

Find more about the upcoming CLE program on the Bar’s Midyear Meeting Web pages.

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