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Inmates Protest New Rules Limiting Kissing and Hugging Visitors at N.H. Prisons

Emily Corwin
Credit Emily Corwin / NHPR

There’s to be no more kissing, and no hugs lasting more than three seconds in New Hampshire’s prison visiting rooms as of this week. The policy change is part of an effort to curb rampant drug smuggling into the prison.

Inmates at the state’s prisons aren’t happy about new visitation rules, and it turns out correctional officers -- who requested the changes -- aren’t exactly happy with how they were rolled out.

On Tuesday, inmates at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin protested the changes by refusing to eat breakfast. They then spent the day on lockdown. In particular, officers said, they were protesting losing the right to kiss.

“They’ve been able to do it at visits for probably the last 20 years that I’ve worked there, and probably before I started,” said Justin Jardine, a Captain at the Prison for Men in Concord, and chapter president of the state’s employee’s union. “There’s gonna be some hurt feelings there,” he said.

Jardine says prison staff have been asking for the new policy for a long time. But, he said, “we didn’t get any help to make sure there was a smooth transition.”

Unfilled officer vacancies and extensive overtime have long been problems at the Department of Corrections.  Jardine said this may be why the Berlin facility had to go into lockdown to respond to the inmates’ food protest.  Additionally, he said, the new rules will be hard to enforce with no additional officers in the visiting rooms. On this matter, the Department declined to comment.

Copyright 2021 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

Emily Corwin reported investigative stories for VPR until August 2020. In 2019, Emily was part of a two-newsroom team which revealed that patterns of inadequate care at Vermont's eldercare facilities had led to indignities, injuries, and deaths. The consequent series, "Worse for Care," won a national Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting, and placed second for a 2019 IRE Award. Her work editing VPR's podcast JOLTED, about an averted school shooting, and reporting NHPR's podcast Supervision, about one man's transition home from prison, made her a finalist for a Livingston Award in 2019 and 2020. Emily was also a regular reporter and producer on Brave Little State, helping the podcast earn a National Edward R. Murrow Award for its work in 2020. When she's not working, she enjoys cross country skiing and biking.
Emily Corwin
Emily Corwin covers New Hampshire news, and reports on the state's criminal justice system. She's also one of eight dedicated reporters with the New England News Collaborative, a consortium of public media newsrooms across New England.
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