Sullivan County Dept. of Corrections Seeks Property for Sober Housing
Estimated Costs for Proposed Site Run Too High
UNITY, NH--Following an initial pitch to create sober transitional housing for released offenders in Claremont, Sullivan County has released a request for proposals seeking property in Claremont or elsewhere in the county to pursue that program. The request for proposals invites property owners and community partners to offer property that may be developed, renovated, donated, purchased, or leased for the Department of Corrections’ proposed use.
“We wanted to cast a wide net and invite more input,” said County Manager Jessie Levine. “Our original concept has not been wholly abandoned, but there are several available properties in Claremont as well as Newport that we should consider. We realized that we needed to do a better job of exploring all options and especially of bringing down start-up costs.”
Earlier this year, plans to house the facility at the corner of Elm and Main Sts. were put on hold after it was determined that project costs were going to be higher than originally estimated. The space would have been located above Hope for NH Recovery and would have included dormitory living for both men and women, in separated areas, with daily supervision; residents would have been responsible for their own personal expenses.
In 2010, the Department of Corrections launched TRAILS, a 90-day residential rehabilitation and recovery treatment program for offenders with moderate-to-high risk drug or alcohol abuse and some with co-occurring mental health disorders. TRAILS, which stands for Transitional Reentry and Inmate Life Skills, has been recognized for its success – the rate of recidivism averages around 20%, half of the State’s recidivism rate – and is being replicated in at least four other NH counties. After completion of TRAILS and related sentencing, offenders are released into the community and receive continued programming for up to 12 months in a post-release period called “aftercare” managed by the County and West Central Behavioral Health.
David Berry, Superintendent of the Department of Corrections, noted that the recidivism rate for offenders who complete aftercare is 9.5% compared to 26% for those who do not. Berry said that the biggest barrier for completion of aftercare is housing: offenders often return to an environment that does not support their recovery and they lose connection to counselors and case managers. This gap led to the County’s efforts to develop affordable and convenient sober housing for released offenders, who often lack a driver’s license yet need access to employment, school, treatment, and community supports. Berry said, “these folks are our family and friends. We want to do everything we can to support their successful reentry into their communities.”
The County’s sober housing proposal has received conceptual approval from the Board of Commissioners and the Delegation, which appointed Representatives Raymond Gagnon (Claremont) and Virginia Irwin (Newport) to work with staff and provide input as the project progresses. The initial proposal was also well-received by City of Claremont officials.
“We have invested in our offenders to provide them the opportunity to turn their lives around. Now it is time to give them the supports needed to transition back to the community by providing safe, sober housing. This project will be a great asset to our program,” said Irwin.
Levine said that she is looking forward to seeing what ideas come out of this process. The County’s three-page RFP is posted on the County’s website and sealed proposals are due Friday, March 24, 2017.