By Tom Jarvis

In 2018, the United States had the highest incarceration rate in the world.[i] According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization for the mitigation of mass incarceration, “New Hampshire has an incarceration rate of 328 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that it locks up a higher percentage of its people than almost any democracy on earth.” [ii]

Over the next several months, the Bar News will feature a series of articles about the prison system and inmates in the Granite State. The New Hampshire Bar Association (NHBA) Prison Series is made possible by the Charles W. Dean Trust Fund, a justice grant awarded through the New Hampshire Bar Foundation.

Since this chart was created, the federal prison in Berlin updated the amount of inmates to 705. Photo courtesy of

The series aims to educate members about the New Hampshire prison system and provide insights from the people who live – or have lived – within it. The articles will relay stories of current and former New Hampshire inmates, as well as lawyers in the criminal field, and will form an arc starting from when a person is first charged with a crime, moving through life in prison, and then ending with re-entry into society.

Currently, the United States has 1.9 million people behind bars and an estimated 3.7 million adults under community supervision. Additionally, the World Prison Brief, an online database by the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research at the University of London, states that as of 2023, the US has the sixth highest incarceration rate in the world, at 531 people per 100,000.

The numbers are exponentially higher when factoring in probation, parole, and transitional housing. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report, “Correctional Populations in the United States, 2021,” an estimated 5.5 million people were under the supervision of adult correction systems in the country, whether incarcerated or under community supervision. This means that one in 48 adult residents in the United States were under some form of correctional supervision at the end of 2021.

In New Hampshire, there are currently more than 4,400 people that are behind bars, with approximately 2,100 in the three state prisons, 1,600 in the ten county jails, 705 in the federal prison, and 20 in the youth facility. The incarceration rate for New Hampshire is 328 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities).[iii]

There is currently one inmate on death row: Michael Addison, who was convicted of shooting and killing Manchester police officer Michael Briggs in 2006. New Hampshire abolished the death penalty in 2019 – becoming the 21st state to do so – but the bill did not apply retroactively to Addison.

Although New Hampshire has ten county jails, one federal prison, and one youth detention center, the NHBA Prison Series will focus mainly on the state prison system.

Operated by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (NHDOC), the system consists of the New Hampshire State Prison for Men (NHSPM) in Concord, the New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women (NHCFW) in Concord, the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility (NNHCF) in Berlin, three transitional housing units (formerly called halfway houses), and a transitional work center. There was also a state prison in Laconia (Lakes Region Facility), but it is now closed.

The New Hampshire State Prison for Men

Photo by Tom Jarvis

The NHSPM is the oldest prison in the state. It was originally built in 1812 and was occupied by a single inmate at the time. In 1878, a new facility was constructed, and throughout the years various renovations were performed. The most recent – and most extensive – renovations took place in the 1980s. It was around this time, in 1983, that the NHDOC was created by statute to consolidate the previously independent probation department, parole department, and the state prison. There are several sections of the prison, including reception and diagnostics (where an inmate is processed upon entry), the secure housing unit (solitary confinement), the secure psychiatric unit, the residential treatment unit, and general population.

The Lakes Region Facility

      With the ever-increasing number of inmates in the state, a second facility became necessary. In 1991, the Lakes Region Facility (LRF) opened on the grounds of the former New Hampshire State School for the Developmentally Disabled in Laconia, and housed minimum- to medium-security prisoners. In 2004, the NHDOC converted the building into a transitional facility for minimum security inmates who would soon be released. However, four years later, the facility closed. According to the NHDOC, as they were preparing the operating budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, it was determined that to meet the parameters set forth by then-Governor John Lynch, a prison facility would have to close. The LRF was identified as the least efficiently operating facility and was shut down in 2009.


The Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility

Courtesy Photo

Once the state’s inmate population surpassed 2,000 in the mid-1990s, the NHDOC determined that, in addition to the NHSPM and the LRF, a third facility was needed. In 2000, the NNHCF opened in Berlin. It was originally proposed to open in Franklin, but a local referendum turned it down. When the LRF closed in 2009, one of the two gymnasiums at the NNHCF was converted into a 112-bed minimum-security unit to accommodate the transfer of the LRF inmates.


The New Hampshire Correctional Facility for Women

Photo by Tom Jarvis

The NHCFW is the newest addition to the New Hampshire prison system. Female inmates were originally housed in the south wing of the NHSPM from 1880 until 1941, when legislation was passed to transfer women offenders to other states or to county jails. In 1989, the NHDOC leased the former Hillsborough County House of Corrections in Goffstown and moved the female prisoners there. However, the cramped and antiquated facility was never intended for long-term use as a prison and did not include any of the same programs and services available to the male inmates in the NHSPM. After decades of legal battles stemming from a class-action lawsuit on behalf of women state prisoners by Elliott Berry and Alan Linder (both formerly of New Hampshire Legal Assistance), the new facility in Concord was built in 2018.


The Transitional Housing Units and the Transitional Work Center

Shea Farm House was the first housing unit to open off the grounds of the state prison. It now houses female inmates preparing for their return to society. Photo by Tom Jarvis

      The NHDOC operates three transitional housing units (THU) and one transitional work center. Formerly known as halfway houses, THU are minimum-security facilities that hold inmates nearing their parole dates as they seek work and prepare for their return to society. The Shea Farm THU in Concord, established in 1973, became the first housing unit to open off the grounds of the state prison and now houses exclusively female inmates. In 1979, Calumet THU in Manchester opened and houses male inmates. The newest, which opened in 1996 and houses male inmates, is North End THU in Concord. The Concord Transitional Work Center, constructed in 1988, is for male inmates with six months or less remaining in their sentence. It is the final stage of an inmate’s confinement before they are released back into the community.

Courtesy of

According to the NHDOC, the average annual cost to keep someone in prison is $54,386 and the average cost for supervising someone on probation/parole is $603 per year.

In an effort to reduce the rate of incarceration in the Granite State, the New Hampshire Judicial Branch has implemented prison diversion

 initiatives such as the drug and mental health courts, that combine community-based treatment programs with strict court supervision and progress incentives and sanctions.

The Lakes Region Facility in Laconia was closed on June 30, 2009. Photo by Annmarie Timmins/New Hampshire Bulletin


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 85 percent of the US prison population has an active substance use disorder or were incarcerated for a crime involving drugs or drug use. Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau worked with stakeholders to bring the drug court program statewide, so there is now a drug court for each county.

The next article in the NHBA Prison Series, running in the September issue of Bar News, will explore what happens when a person is charged and subsequently convicted of a crime. This will include sentencing and the first days of quarantine in prison, called Reception and Diagnostics.


The statistics in this article were compiled using data from the Prison Policy Initiative, the World Prison Brief of the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research at the University of London, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. Additional information on the state prison system was provided by Attorney Robin Melone.


[i] World Prison Brief by the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research at the University of London.

[ii] Mass incarceration is a term coined by David Garland, Arthur T. Vanderbilt professor of law and professor of sociology at New York University, as a shorthand to characterize the fact that the US incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world.

[iii] Prison Policy Initiative,