Pop quiz. Who is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system? No, it’s not a judge. It’s your local county attorney. They decide in criminal cases who is charged, the severity of those charges, or if any charges are filed. 

Second question in this pop quiz, how do county attorneys get to be county attorneys? Answer: they are popularly elected just like state representatives and senators! And yet, they are often one of the least understood elected positions and least known by voters.

The decisions they make directly impact the racial disparities that we see throughout the criminal legal system, including in New Hampshire’s incarceration rates. As our state grapples with systemic racism and makes a concerted effort to advance racial justice, this work must include scrutiny of our prosecutors as well as our law enforcement. While police have the sole power to decide whom to arrest, it is prosecutors who have the most power over the legal fate of those arrested.

We asked all the candidates a range of questions about systemic racism and the criminal legal system. The answers we have received are below.

1. Belknap County - Andrew Livernois

Q.Belknap County - Andrew Livernois
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • I believe that every person involved in the criminal justice system needs to be vigilant and careful to try to ensure that implicit bias and institutionalized racism does not infect their decision-making. This applies to police officers, prosecutors, and judges. I think that this is a very real concern in New Hampshire, and every community. We need to be always mindful of the subtle ways that race (as well as gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, etc.) could skew the criminal justice system. Prosecutors have tremendous discretion entrusted to them and must be always careful to use those powers in a fair, and even-handed manner. While I am not personally aware of any cases in Belknap County where racism had an impact on decisions with regard to charging, or sentencing, I am mindful of those concerns.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • I do not have any personal knowledge of incarceration rates by race in New Hampshire and have not seen any studies on that matter, but I have no reason to doubt the claim implicit in this question. However, to the extent that people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population, the reasons for that difference are complex and difficult to discern. There are numerous sociological and historical issues involved. Police officers, prosecutors and judges all exercise large amounts of discretion in the criminal justice system and could play a role. In my personal experience, the prosecutors who I have worked with and who I have supervised have all been exceptionally conscientious and careful to view all defendants equally, regardless of their race, and so I do not believe that any prosecutors in my office have played a role in any disproportionate incarceration by race. That said, I do not think that we should be complacent about this issue but need to always be taking steps to ensure that justice truly is color-blind.

    I will continue to closely and carefully supervise the attorneys in my office and all local police officers I deal with to make sure that invidious or implicit bias does not infect our decision-making, and will continue to counsel and train them to be aware of how unconscious or systemic racism could affect their decision-making.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • Police officers are entrusted with a tremendous amount of discretion, and for that reason, they are expected to always act with the highest personal integrity. Honesty and trustworthiness are essential traits for police officers. Any falsification of reports by police officers undermines the foundation of the criminal justice system, and its ability to find the truth. For that reason, I have zero tolerance for falsification of reports by police. If such an incident ever came to my attention, I would immediately report it to the officer’s Chief for appropriate disciplinary action and would place that officer on the Attorney General’s list of officers to be flagged as having credibility issues.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • I believe that drug-abuse is a serious problem that causes vast socio-economic problems in every community, is itself the root of much other criminal behavior, and destroys people’s lives. For that reason, I do not support decriminalization of all drug possession. At the same time, substance abuse is not a problem that can be solved with simplistic one-size-fits-all approaches. The criminal justice system cannot solve the problem of substance abuse by simply locking people up. Instead, I view the criminal justice system as one part of the overall solution. We need to use the leverage that comes from the criminal justice system wisely, to try to get people into drug-treatment programs that are evidence-based and work. We need to work with social service agencies, state government, all of our community partners that are battling addiction, and continue using alternative sentencing mechanisms, like Drug Courts and community based treatment options as a way to encourage people to get to a place where they can lead healthy, productive, sober lives.

    Since coming into office, I have taken extensive measures in this regard, and will continue to do so. We frequently refer low-level drug offense cases into our Restorative Justice diversion programs to try to get people treatment and avoid giving them a criminal record. Many low-level drug cases are reduced to misdemeanors and handled in District Court. We actively participate in the Drug Court program and use that as a tool to avoid sending higher-risk defendants to prison, and instead place them in a community-based, intensive supervision setting for drug treatment. We utilize probation as a mechanism for getting people into drug treatment while remaining in the community.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • No, I do not support the complete decriminalization of sex work. Human trafficking of vulnerable individuals is a serious problem. While I think the State should generally stay out of people’s intimate personal lives, my concern is for the people who are involved in sex work who are exploited, and who may not be acting completely out of free choice.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • Of course not. Drug use, poverty and homelessness or deep-seated and invidious societal problems, with multi-faceted causes. Incarceration cannot “solve” any of these problems. Poverty and homelessness are not crimes – they are failures of our collective social system.

    Regarding drug addiction, please see my answer to question number 4, above.

    As for homelessness and poverty, we have never used the criminal justice system to address these issues, and never will while I am in office. We do not treat people differently based upon their economic status or income. We prosecute those people who have reason to believe have committed felony-level offenses fairly and evenhandedly.

2. Carroll County - Michaela Andruzzi

Q.Carroll County - Michaela Andruzzi
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • I believe that there is bias in the criminal justice system, and that people of color are disproportionately impacted by this.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • I do believe that people of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. I do not believe that the reason for this is simple. There are a multitude of underlying reasons, all of which should be explored and not all of these causes are inherently racist, though they certainly are built on a foundation which was put in place during a far more racist period in our history. These causes include disparity in schooling, in mortgage lending, in wages and benefits – all of which can contribute to an increase in risky behavior.

    The above statement shouldn’t be viewed as me endorsing a narrative that purports that the criminal justice system is unbiased – I believe it is biased. It is my belief that one cannot simply point to a biased system and say, “There’s the problem.” There are many problems, and all need to be addressed.

    I will continue to operate the County Attorney’s Office as a vehicle for justice. We must never forget that the person on the other side of the courtroom is a human being, with history and family and reasons for their behavior. We always look to answer one question: “What is justice in this particular case?” It is not enough to be color-blind. We need to consider the path in life that each defendant has travelled, and decide how to best address the competing societal needs for rehabilitation, deterrence, and punishment. I train all of the prosecutors here to remember that their client is their own conscience.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • Our office has always offered training for local departments. We work closely with law enforcement to ensure there is appropriate and open communication. In my view, there is not better vehicle for change than being a prosecutor. We have the ability to effect system-wide change. We have a unique insight into each officer, and can readily spot problems or systemic biases. In our role, we also have the power to do something about those issues. The County Attorney is the chief law enforcement official in her county, and has the ability to address problem officers with their chiefs and work together to plan for additional training, correction, or even termination.

    As prosecutors, if we see that an officer has violated someone’s rights, we have the discretion to refuse the charge. We have the ability to request intervention from the officer’s chief, and we have the duty to ensure that the officer is correctly trained


    With regard to falsifying reports, we do not tolerate falsity in our cases. Our duty is to find any such falsity, ensure that the defense is aware of it, and to demand that an officer is held accountable. We also have the discretion to refuse or to dismiss charges where there is a question as to the veracity of the underlying report.

    It is my opinion that officers who are dishonest should be terminated.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • It depends. People may define “low-level” offenses in a variety of ways. As a prosecutor, I personally do not believe that we should be prosecuting people for marijuana offenses, but even a small amount of methamphetamine is something that requires attention. As ministers of justice, we should be judging, on a case by case basis, what the individual needs are in each particular case. I support treatment options whenever possible. I do not believe we are serving our citizens well if we do not at least attempt to get people into treatment when they are found to be in possession of dangerous drugs (even in small amounts), and that option would be unavailable if we were to simply stop investigating and prosecuting drug offenses.

    I have shown that I am committed to prioritizing treatment options for individuals who struggle with substance use.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • I have devoted almost the entirety of my career to standing up for underprivileged and vulnerable individuals. In my experience, sex work can lead to severe exploitation of women, transgender people and teens, including abuse and human trafficking. Decriminalizing this type of work is something that would require a great deal of prior study in order to ensure that we are not opening the door for people to exploit vulnerable individuals. I do not believe people should be bought or sold.

    I will not. I will commit to evaluating each case on its own merits, and seeking justice in each individual case.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • Again, this is not as simple a question as it seems. When people are incarcerated for crimes of violence AND they have substance abuse issues, I do believe we should be offering treatment and education to individuals who are incarcerated. 

    I am not a proponent of incarcerating individuals who have substance use dependency issues and commit no other crimes. I believe that treatment is a more humane (and coincidentally, less expensive) option for us to work with individuals suffering from dependency issues. Often, dependency is a by-product of other trauma, and we should not fail to address these potentially underlying issues.

    Another point that can be lost in an overly zoomed-out view of drug dependency issues is that there may be consequences to other individuals, and we cannot, as ministers of justice, ignore those individuals either. For instance – ancillary crime related to the drug trade, such as burglary or theft. Homes which become a danger to the surrounding community because of high-use and short-term narcotics trade which brings dangers to a neighborhood and impacts the safety of the children in the neighborhood.

    If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

    Our office will continue to place a priority on treatment options, and searching for ways we can fund this.

3. Cheshire County - Chris McLaughlin

Q.Cheshire County - Chris McLaughlin
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • My personal opinion is that implicit racist policies did exist and have been ingrained into many, if not most, facets of American society: such as, industry, banking, housing, schools and governmental organizations, including the criminal legal system. However, as someone who has worked in the criminal justice system for over thirty years, and who has both defended and prosecuted defendants, I have not observed overt racism exhibited by anyone involved in that justice system. As a prosecutor, I treat accused citizens fairly and individually based on the criminal allegations against them, whether they have any prior criminal history and other individual aggravating and mitigating factors.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • I have not seen the data you are referring to, but, anecdotally speaking, my years of experience as a public defender visiting clients in the NH State Prison, would lead me to the conclusion that a disproportionate percentage of people of color are incarcerated in the NH State Prison system. However, before someone is incarcerated in the NH State Prison three factions of the criminal justice system have looked at the case and made decisions: namely, the judiciary, the prosecution and defense counsel. Thus, while the prosecution has sole control over charging decisions in criminal cases, all three factions play a part in the final resolution of cases.

    As a prosecutor, I take into account a number of factors in coming up with a proposed resolution to a criminal case: to include, victim input, the nature of the crime, the criminal history (if any) of the defendant, and case dependent aggravating and mitigating factors. I would like to believe that I, and the attorneys in this office that I supervise, do not take into account a person's race in deciding on a proposed resolution to a criminal case.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • I support and promote police reform by holding police officers accountable for official misconduct. My experience and interactions with law enforcement agencies leads me to conclude that police misconduct in NH is not tolerated or covered up, but, rather, is dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • As a prosecutor, I am obligated to enforce the criminal laws that the legislature has elected to pass. Having said that, those persons charged with possession of a personal use amount of controlled drugs are dealt with on an individual basis taking into account the accused person's history with the criminal justice system, their treatment history, their mental health history and various individual factors, with the end goal being to come up with an appropriate and just resolution to the charge. Ultimately, it is not my place to decriminalize the personal possession of controlled drugs, as that decision belongs with the legislature and the citizens that elect their representatives. 

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • Similar to the question on not enforcing "low-level" drug offenses, it is up to the legislature to determine whether "sex work" should be decriminalized. My experience as a public defender and prosecutor leads me to conclude that many, if not most, people who become involved as "sex workers" have histories involving substance misuse, physical and sexual abuse, mental health diagnoses, and, some, are being involuntarily trafficked. Thus, to claim that the legalization of "sex work" would lead to a completely volunteer work force is belied by the history of the sex work industry.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • The short answer is no. I often say to anyone that will listen, if the government expended more resources on early childhood programs focused on at risk kids, we as a society would be much better off in the long run. In many cases, incarceration of an adult is really just a byproduct of how we as a society failed him or her as a young child. As a prosecutor, I am standing at the bottom of a waterfall catching the adults with a net as they come over because of the lack of early childhood programs upstream. Because of this phenomenon, because so many adults involved in the criminal justice system suffer from substance use disorders and mental health issues, and because I understand that 90-95% of the people from this community will be coming back to this community after their incarceration ends, I am a proponent of Drug Courts and Behavioral Health Courts. I sit on the Cheshire County Drug Court Team and was involved with the creation of the Cheshire County Drug Court. Drug Courts and Behavioral Health Courts are effective tools for addressing the substance misuse and mental health issues that many defendants involved in the criminal justice system suffer from, and they can be very effective in bettering the lives of many criminal defendants.

4. Coos County - John McCormick

Q.Coos County - John McCormick
A.

This candidate did not respond to the ACLU of NH questionnaire.

5. Grafton County - Marcie Hornick

Q.Grafton County - Marcie Hornick
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real?  Explain.

  • Racism is certainly real…systemic racism specifically in the criminal legal system of NH is a more nuanced question with no one- size- fits- all answer.  For example, “classism” and poverty come into play as well.  The potential of systemic racism within the legal system is certainly a possibility because the “system” is human driven each of whom has their own individual prejudices or biases.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • It is true that statewide, statistically speaking, people of color are incarcerated at a greater rate than white people. I think that the role of the prosecutor – one of the many cogs in the criminal justice system- has to be considered within the context of the overall system and the availability of, for example, alternative sentencing programs, housing, employment and transportation opportunities and myriad other factors. I cannot deny that it’s possible that there may be some prosecutors somewhere who have played a role in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color but am confident- and grateful- that those with whom I work with do not fall into that category.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • Police officers in this county are held accountable for their actions- and would be held accountable for any misconduct.  Police Chiefs across this county agree with me that there is no room in any of our communities for police misconduct.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • As the County Attorney, I actively endorse and promote our drug court and other alternative sentencing programs with the understanding that substance misuse – sometimes masking mental health issues- can be a driver of criminal behavior. The laws in the state, however, are laws I am sworn to uphold- as are law enforcement across the state.  We strive, therefore to find the right balance with each case, each set of facts, each person.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • I support assisting those forced into sex trafficking of which sex work (generally) is an unfortunate reality.  But I cannot say I simply support decriminalization of sex work because that term is way too broad and again nuanced and vague and my experience has been that each case has to be critically analyzed individually to inform how and whether charges should be brought.  We are focused on the rights and needs of victims of sexual violence in Grafton County and the vagueness of this question can suggest otherwise.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • Incarceration does not solve any of those issues. Those issues mandate a from- the- ground –up, community based outlook and focus that prioritizes family, education and safety.  The alternative sentencing programs in this county have been created and expanded in part to address the “deprioritization” of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues.  I will work to further strengthen them and maintain and continue to build the relationships with our community partners to help prevent those who might otherwise find themselves in the system diverted from it.

6. Hillsborough County - Michael Conlon

Q.Hillsborough County - Michael Conlon
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • If we define systemic racism as systems that perpetuate racial inequality then I would say yes, there is systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH. I’m not aware of any criminal legal system that can honestly say they have eliminated systemic racism. Inequality is borne from the bias and bigotry of the individual and can be both intentional and unintentional. The criminal legal systems of NH, like many around the world, rely upon the discretion and bias of the individual who has been granted the power of authority. This can be a municipal parking enforcement officer, a police officer, a prosecutor, a judge, or a prison warden. At each level there is an opportunity for systemic racism to gain a foothold when that discretion is abused or a bias has had some influence in the decisions that are made.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • I do not dispute the accuracy of the NHDOC data. Prosecutors play the role of negotiating terms of charges brought forth in criminal cases, whether they be misdemeanors or indictments before a grand jury, in pursuit of a resolution. The social makeup of the prosecutor’s caseload is a reflection of the police department’s enforcement in their jurisdiction. The prosecutor has a degree of discretion as to the form of resolution based on the severity of the charges in cases they are assigned. The prosecutor also has a duty and expectation to resolve cases within a range of expected results given various parameters of a particular case.

    It is important for a prosecutor to consider not just the intent or actions of the accused that led to the charges against them but also what led the accused to enter into that situation. To consider the arc of their life and how racial inequality may have played a role in any criminal thinking. Prosecutors should consider what resources or opportunities may be available to them, in working with defense counsel, to try and help address that broader issue. Often times there is a bigger picture and consideration of that can lead to more effective justice.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • Public officials that commit bad acts should face the same consequences as private individuals who commit bad acts. In the New Hampshire criminal code there are not different sentencing guidelines for when a public official commits a felony. That is what accountability means to me: when a wrong is committed there is corrective action to address the wrong and help ensure it does not happen again in the future. Accountability of police is particularly important because of the important powers and responsibilities that we entrust to our police officers as public officials. They enter our homes, witness or respond to the darkest moments of our communities, and are put into life and death situations. Abuse of that power and responsibility should have clear and strong accountability. As County Attorney that is best promoted by encouraging reforms that promote these goals and ensuring that any related cases that are handled by my office are given the appropriate attention and resources.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • I support the enforcement of equal justice under our laws. It is the duty of the legislature and the governor to determine what laws should be made or ended.

    The opioid crisis and substance use disorder has broken many homes, taken many lives, and caused so much hurt to Hillsborough County. Multiple times I have sat down with grieving parents to tell them we do not have enough evidence to bring forth charges against the people who may have sold drugs to their child. Even “low-level drug offenses” can have devastating consequences in our communities. While I do not believe that incarceration is the best remedy for these crimes, I do believe that we need to provide some response as a community to assist individuals and families that are struggling with addiction or substance use disorder(s). Whether that is law enforcement coordinating with health agencies to provide services and resources, or something else, we cannot simply ignore and walk away from this problem and think a solution will arrive.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • I support the enforcement of equal justice under our laws. It is the duty of the legislature and the governor to determine what laws should be made or ended.

    When I think about pandering or prostitution related offenses in Hillsborough County my concerns begin with public safety and ensuring that people are engaging in consensual behavior. Then it expands to drug enterprise networks or human trafficking. These are some of the related offenses that could be the focus of an investigation so that evidence could be lawfully collected and used by prosecution.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • I believe incarceration solves public safety issues such as dangerousness and the interests of justice such as appearance by individuals who may flee the jurisdiction. Incarceration prevents an individual from enjoying the liberty of being free in our community. It does not provide an income, it is not anyone’s home and while I am proud to say that during my first term as County Attorney our jail implemented Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction, and has a treatment program SATCO, it does not solve drug use for many people.

    To the extent that an individual can demonstrate that they have available resources to address their poverty or homelessness then that could be an opportunity for a prosecutor to structure a plea deal that supports supervision over incarceration in order to provide some liberty to the individual to demonstrate that they can apply those resources while preserving public safety. For drug use this resource might be Drug Court. Drug Court is the term used to describe the superior court rehabilitation program where individuals convicted of serious drug charges can avoid incarceration and receive treatment to overcome their substance use disorder. Hillsborough County has a strong Drug Court program in both superior court jurisdictions. It is important that we continue to support these programs while looking for opportunities to expand their use and function. The success stories where participants are able to be honest about their drug use, maintain employment, and try to rebuild trust with their families is a far better outcome than years in prison.

7. Hillsborough County - John Coughlin

Q.Hillsborough County - John Coughlin
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • Attributes such as race, national origin, immigration status, gender, religious affiliation, and a number of other factors have historically influenced our interactions within the community, often in ways we are unaware of. The criminal justice community is not immune to such biases. A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility includes specific obligations to ensure that the all defendants are afforded procedural justice and that special precautions and careful deliberation are taken to bring about a just result in every case. As a general principle of leadership, it is well accepted that discrimination undermines an organization’s ability to function effectively, and it cannot be tolerated. We must overcome any bias or stereotype that diminishes cohesiveness or distracts us from the mission. Success of the criminal justice system is similarly undermined by bias and stereotypes. As an organization, we have a clear obligation to root out bias and eliminate it. That effort starts with effective leadership. I believe that I have that necessary leadership. I have 40 years of legal experience as a military and civilian attorney. I served as a New Hampshire Human Rights Commissioner for 13 years as well as Chair of the Commission for 8 of those years. I was appointed to these positions by both Republican and Democrat Governors. The Commissioner's Executive Director and Staff were and remain dedicated to carry out our mission to prevent and address discrimination in any form. I served in the United States Marine Corps, United States Army Reserves and Army National Guard as a Judge Advocate (military lawyer) and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. I deployed to Iraq three times and while I was on a deployment in 2007, I served with the Multi National Security Command-Iraq as the Liaison to the General Counsel’s Office, Ministry of Defense Iraq and assisted the Iraq military to reestablish their military courts and establish the Rule of Law. I served for 15 years as a New Hampshire State District/Circuit Court Judge where I dedicated my life to the equal application of the law and treated all those who came before the court with respect and dignity.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • This is a question about two entirely different issues. First there is a question about what guidance the County Attorney may offer our exceptional law enforcement officers to assist with extinguishing bias in their work. Guidance begins with relationships. The relationships between the current County Attorney and police agencies throughout the county have been weakened to put it mildly during the course of the current County Attorney’s tenure. Without strong law enforcement relationships and cooperation, any guidance and recommendations that the County Attorney may provide on law enforcement practices would have little impact.    

    Second, this is a question about the response to the rare case when a law enforcement officer violates the law. As with other types of bias, any special consideration given to a law enforcement officer who has committed a crime would publicly undermine the criminal justice system and weaken public trust and confidence. The full force of the prosecutor’s office should be brought to bear to eliminate corruption within Hillsborough County wherever it may be found. 

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • This is another question about two different issues. Similar to the question above, this involves what guidance the County Attorney may offer our exceptional law enforcement officers to assist with extinguishing bias in their work. Guidance begins with relationships and cooperation. The relationships between the current County Attorney and law enforcement agencies throughout the county have been weakened during the course of the current County Attorney’s tenure. Without strong law enforcement relationships and cooperation, any guidance and recommendations that the County Attorney may provide on law enforcement practices would have little impact.

    Second, this is a question about the response to the rare case when a law enforcement officer violates the law. As with other types of bias, any special consideration given a law enforcement officer who has committed a crime would publicly undermine the criminal justice system and weaken public trust and confidence. The full force of the prosecutor’s office should be brought to bear to eliminate corruption within Hillsborough County.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • Low level drug offenses are typically handled in the circuit courts by local law enforcement or local prosecutors. The County Attorney’s office focuses on felony level prosecution. Turning the tide of heroin and methamphetamine trafficking in our county is a top priority.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • Prostitution charges are typically handled in the circuit courts by local law enforcement or local prosecutors. The County Attorney’s office focuses on felony level prosecution. Human trafficking is a crime that must be taken very seriously and given any resources necessary to bring the practice to an end.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • Drug use, poverty, and homelessness have only accelerated in Hillsborough County in recent years. These are devastating and intractable problems that have no apparent simple solution. The County Attorney’s office, as with every public office, has an obligation to address these issues whenever possible.

8. Hillsborough County - Nicholas Sarwark

Q.Hillsborough County - Nicholas Sarwark
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • In my 12 years of legal practice I’ve handled hundreds of criminal cases, including more than 35 jury trials. There are only a handful of times I’ve observed overt racism from a lawyer, judge, or law enforcement officer. Most people in our criminal justice system want to treat people equitably regardless of race or ethnicity. That said, the outcomes in the criminal justice system are worse for people of color. Lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers have a responsibility to identify the root causes of the disparity of outcomes and work to build a system that lives up to our shared values of equal justice.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • Data doesn’t lie. People of color are overrepresented in the New Hampshire prison system and they are often sentenced to a longer term of incarceration than similarly situated defendants who are not people of color. Prosecutors are responsible for setting policies for offering plea bargains to resolve cases outside of trial as well as for policies about what sentence to request after a guilty verdict. There may not have been any conscious effort from prosecutors to incarcerate people of color more frequently and for longer sentences, but that is what has happened and needs to be changed.

    As Hillsborough County Attorney, I will seek equal justice before the law for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity and establish that as a priority for all attorneys and staff in the office. We will do a review of cases that have been handled by the office to see if there are patterns of disparity that have occurred and work to eliminate disparities in treatment of defendants going forward.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • A prosecutor is called to seek justice, not just win convictions. Justice is served by prosecuting crimes within the bounds of the Constitution and the law, including fairness to the accused and not presenting questionable evidence. My office will not tolerate police misconduct, such as falsifying reports. If we discover it, we will inform defense counsel of the misconduct and work in cooperation with the law enforcement agency to ensure that it is corrected and that the offending officer is held accountable. We owe that to the people of Hillsborough County and to the majority of police officers who are honest and professional to not allow bad apples to spoil the bunch.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • As county attorney, I will take an oath to uphold the laws of the State of New Hampshire, which presently include criminal penalties for drug possession. The legislature is responsible for reforming or repealing those laws if appropriate and I will be happy to testify at the General Court about the effect of the existing laws on public safety in Hillsborough County. In talking to members of the community, they are most concerned about efficient use of limited resources and focusing on violent and property crimes that are the greatest threat to the quality of life that brought our family to the Granite State.

    Every prosecutor’s office deals with limited time, staff, and money. The citizens of Hillsborough County expect their county attorney to effectively manage the taxpayer dollars they are entrusted with. That means focusing prosecution resources on those violent and property crimes that are the greatest threat to public safety, not simple possession offenses. Diverting people with a substance abuse problem out of the criminal justice system is less expensive and more likely to prevent repeat offenses than prosecution and imprisonment.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • Every prosecutor’s office deals with limited time, staff, and money. The citizens of Hillsborough County expect their county attorney to effectively manage the taxpayer dollars they are entrusted with. That means focusing prosecution resources on those violent and property crimes that are the greatest threat to public safety, not pandering or prostitution offenses. Helping those people who wish to get out of sex work find the resources to address their situation and divert them out of the criminal justice system is less expensive and more likely to prevent repeat offenses than prosecution and imprisonment.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • Drugs are somewhat more difficult to obtain in prison or jail and incarcerated people have food and shelter, but incarceration isn’t a solution to the underlying problems that cause crime. Incarceration is the cost of not finding better solutions to drug use, poverty, and homelessness. Our entire community needs to come together to work on those solutions. Providing solutions without incarceration is a more effective use of limited taxpayer dollars than providing services inside of jail or prison.

    The citizens of Hillsborough County want to reduce crime and recidivism in the most effective and efficient way possible. It is a much better use of taxpayer dollars to resolve a criminal case in a way that solves the underlying issues in a person’s life than it is to repeatedly lock a person up, just to have them reoffend when they get out of prison because the problems they are facing are still there. If an offense appears linked to underlying substance abuse, mental health, homelessness, or poverty issues, our office would work to make sure any case resolution addresses those underlying issues and save limited prison resources for serious offenses.

9. Merrimack County - Robin Davis

Q.Merrimack County - Robin Davis
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • Yes. I also believe that in much of NH there is a companion issue of Classism. I think this is a result of each of our life experiences. We all have biases whether conscious or unconscious, that factor into the decisions we make about people and their actions. If we have not identified them in ourselves, we cannot adjust for them in our work.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • Yes. I think that each of us share unconscious biases that factor into how we do our jobs and the decisions we make regarding the resolution of case involving people of color. I think we need to introspect on what those biases are and how they affect our decisions. For a prosecutor a bias may affect the charging decision, the plea offer, or whether we offer alternatives sentencing options.

    I believe education on realizing these biases and working with members of my office and our police departments on recognizing the effects of our biases and changing our biased thinking.

    Additionally, there needs to be a conscious effort to resolve cases based on the facts and circumstances of the case regardless of other factors like race. A resolution needs to be fair and reasonable based on the person and the facts of the case.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • This is a very complex issue that needs to be looked at from many angles. There is no simple solution. The problems within law enforcement have evolved over a long period of time and are deeply ingrained in the system. A prosecutor can intervene when he/she reviews a case, you can look for errors in an officer’s police work. You can identify mistakes and discuss them with the officer to allow them to continue to learn while on the job. If an officer continues to make the same mistakes, you can speak with his/her supervisor and ask that they be re-trained. In some instances where the mistake is egregious, the prosecutor can decline to move forward with the case. The relationship between the prosecutor and the department is very important. There needs to be the ability to have on-going conversations that allow for positive outcomes.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • I think the true remedy regarding low-level drug offenses is legislation. I have an obligation to enforce the laws. The way that we deal with low-level drug offenses and other offenses in Merrimack County is to utilize our alternative sentencing options.  Alternative sentencing allows the individual to address the behavior without the negative consequences of a criminal conviction or incarceration. Criminal convictions can hinder people’s ability to obtain employment, housing and financial support.  In Merrimack County, our alternative sentencing options provide programming to address the behavior that brought them into the legal system in hopes that he/she can make positive changes and hopefully avoid incarcerated. These alternative sentencing options, allow a person to remain in the community contributing as a, employee, parent, spouse, renter etc.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • I believe these cases need to be reviewed very carefully. Each one presents a different set of circumstances. The resolution of these cases is very complex. An important consideration is to not re-victimize the people that are involved in these cases. These cases involve people that have likely suffered some type of trauma. I think there is an opportunity to intervene and provide resources to assist in changing the behavior for long-term success.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • No, it may force someone to remain clean for a period of time but that comes with risks. It may give a person food and shelter in the short term but generally when you incarcerate a person who is already struggling to survive, you take away what little that they might still have: their job, their housing, their car, their clothing, their partner, their children. When someone has nothing, it is hard to motivate them to change their behavior.

    I do not think it is a matter of deprioritizing the use of the criminal legal system. The problem is that the Criminal system has been the default position for the failures of the other systems in the state. Each of us as citizens needs to push for a well-funded services to include: mental health care and maintenance, affordable health care for everyone and substance abuse treatment facilities that are accessible. If people are able to get the treatment they need, many of them would not end up engaging in criminal behavior. So many of the folks that get arrested have unaddressed mental health issues,  medical issues that are being addressed  with illegal drug use or alcohol, or have significant substance abuse issues that result in criminal behaviors. Additionally, the young people in this state need to be cared for and protected. Many of the issues that lead people to abuse themselves or others are a result of trauma they have endured as a child. When there is a discussion about re-allocating money, we should take a hard look at better funding Health and Human services.

    Police reform is necessary. There are many layers that need to be examined. We need to think specifically about the people entering law enforcement, the culture of law enforcement and the leadership. We also need to think more broadly about reforming the systems that should be supporting the police so the police and other first responders are not shouldering the burden by themselves.

10. Merrimack County - Paul Halvorsen

Q.Merrimack County - Paul Halvorsen
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real?  Explain.

  • Having been a prosecutor in the third largest municipality in NH for over 17 years I can only address my experiences and cannot speak for other jurisdictions or prosecutors. In my experience over the last 17 years I have not seen systemic racism (that is, racism as a normal practice) in any case I have been involved with. Indeed, I cannot recall any case where I thought the race of an individual led to the prosecution of that individual.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • The question concerning people of color making up a disproportionate percentage of the New Hampshire prison population did not contain the data ACLU used to reach the conclusion identified in this question. Accordingly, I looked at on-line sources, including the NHDOC website as well as several sites summarizing census data, to answer this question.

    From the data I reviewed people of color in New Hampshire do not appear to be incarcerated at a disproportionate rate. The NHDOC summary I read indicates that persons in DOC facilities identified as white make up approximately 86% of the DOC population. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report put the white population in New Hampshire at approximately 89%. This means that the DOC reported non-white population of approximately 14% is almost equal to the U.S. Census Bureau reported non-white population of approximately 11%.

    As Merrimack County Attorney I can say, without reservation, that prosecution under my leadership will be driven by facts and not by the race of those accused. As a society we must never elect to prosecute or not prosecute based on matching population demographics. To do so flies in the face of fundamental fairness and I believe is unconstitutional.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • Let me address the most specific part of this question first: any officer afforded due process and then found to have falsified a police report must be terminated and the department leadership, along with the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, must ensure action is taken to revoke that officer’s New Hampshire certification to be a police officer.

    Police reform is not a “one and done” proposition. It should be an ongoing endeavor with police leadership always seeking ways to do a better job. As county attorney one of my goals, and I’ve already said this publicly on several occasions, would be to attend meetings of our law enforcement leadership and lend my voice, support and assistance as needed to earn and keep the trust of the public we support.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • Ending or suspending the enforcement of any law appears to be outside the powers possessed by a County Attorney. The New Hampshire Constitution, at Part 1 Article 29, limits the power to suspend law to the legislature. Accordingly, no County Attorney can end or suspend any statute.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • I do not support the decriminalization of “sex work.” By any definition, “sex work” includes prostitution and is mostly populated by women. One article I recently reviewed indicated that 80% of prostitutes are women. Other literature I reviewed commented that “sex work,” including prostitution, is commonly associated with exploitation by human traffickers, abuse of substances and violence. Decriminalization of “sex work” opens the door to increased exploitation of the vulnerable. That is a door we should not open. The author of one article said: “[S]ince legalization of prostitution has been associated with increased trafficking those most vulnerable are at increased risk for harm.”

    To be clear: The exploiter must be held to account, the exploited must be protected and we should not grant more access to exploit the vulnerable of society.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • Incarceration alone does not solve drug use, poverty, or homelessness. In my over 17 years as a prosecutor I have never seen prosecutors use the criminal justice system as a primary resource for those issues. However, to assist a person’s re-entry into society incarcerated individuals should have access to counseling for issues involving substance abuse, referral assistance for housing when released and referrals to other community services if needed.

11. Rockingham County - Steven Briden

Q.Rockingham County - Steven Briden
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real?  Explain.

  • I believe that systemic racism is present across American society generally, therefore any government structure is going to have issues with systemic racism and bigotry.  New Hampshire has serious systemic issues regarding wealth inequality, and access to housing, to childcare, to a quality education.  Ultimately those issues are significant drivers of criminal conduct in some of the most frequently seen criminal offenses.  These issues of inequality are at their worst in the most diverse areas of New Hampshire, which I believe drives some of the disparate outcomes for people of color.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • I don’t think this is a question of belief. The statistics show that people of color are incarcerated at disproportionate rates, and while Judges have the final say in sentencing, prosecutors directly impact incarceration rates. Prosecutors have an incredible amount of discretion in sentencing, so if there are issues of disproportionate incarceration, prosecutors must share in the blame for that.

    If elected, I will make sure that my prosecutors take part in mandatory implicit bias trainings.  Additionally, I think it is important for all individuals involved in the criminal justice system to avoid the temptation to dehumanize the individuals who are being investigated and prosecuted.  Prosecutors should be making efforts to understand factors that promote criminal behavior, and to never let a competitive desire to win cases undermine our duty to sentence each defendant individually in such a way that furthers community safety and provides the defendant with the best opportunity for rehabilitation.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • There is a serious trust deficit between law enforcement and the community at large.  I believe much of that trust deficit is rooted in the preservation of the Laurie list, or the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule (EES).  I do not believe that there should be a secret list of officers who have committed acts of misconduct on the job.  I believe that intentionally falsifying police reports, lying on the witness stand, or lying as a part of an investigation are serious breaches of the public trust, and they are acts that an officer cannot come back from.  I think if you are found to have committed those offenses, you should be terminated, and your certification to work as a police officer should be revoked.

    However, I also think that there needs to be a fairer, more standardized method for investigating these types of allegations.  Across this State, every police department has their own methods for performing internal investigations, and it can lead to wildly disparate outcomes where the same conduct at two different police departments could lead to no consequences in one location, and termination and placement on the EES in a different location.  It is my hope that the Governor’s Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency will make recommendations regarding a standardized review policy for questions of misconduct that will provide due process to the officer that is accused, as well has having meaningful punishments available if the charge against the officer is sustained.  If this does not happen on a state-wide level, as County Attorney I would work with my local police departments to try and develop a standardized review process on the county level.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • “Low-level drug offenses” are too broad of a category to speak about as a whole.  I do believe that marijuana should be legalized and regulated by the State of New Hampshire in a similar manner to our regulation of alcohol.  I believe our current situation of legal medicinal marijuana and decriminalized recreational marijuana sends mixed signals and can lead to very uneven prosecution.  As Rockingham County Attorney I would direct my attorneys to de-prioritize any prosecution of marijuana unless it is a serious case of cross-state trafficking.  I also believe we should de-prioritize the enforcement of possession of drugs charges that involve small amounts of recreational drugs that pose less of a danger to the user.

    However, until the State puts in place a treatment system that can help individuals who have serious substance abuse problems, I do believe the criminal justice system has a duty to use its authority to help individuals get into and be successful in treatment and rehabilitation programs.  I also believe that we should be mindful that incarceration is not a treatment for substance abuse disorder and while I believe we need to use those offenses to compel compliance with treatment, we should not be incarcerating non-violent low-level drug offenders.

    I would deprioritize the prosecution of low-level drug offenses if elected.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • At this time, I do not support the decriminalization of purchasing sex, however I do support the decriminalization of the actions of the worker, or at least support the strong presumption against charging a sex worker until such time as the legislature makes a change to our current laws.

    I base this position off of the research that I have seen regarding long term effects that sex work (legal or illegal) can have on the workers.  Multiple studies of the workers themselves show that many of them participate because they feel like they have no other options and do not know how to extract themselves from that world.  They also suffer from PTSD due to the physical harm that they suffer in that work.  There is also evidence that physical abuse does not decrease in a meaningful way in areas that have legalized sex work.   Finally, there are serious concerns of trafficking that masquerades as legal sex work where women are moved internationally from impoverished areas to work in legal brothels with little protection and with little contact to anyone who can advocate for them.

    That being said, I do not believe that also putting these workers in jail changes their circumstances for the better.  However, I do believe that if you remove the demand from the marketplace by criminalizing the purchasers, you could hopefully help the workers move out of a line of work that the vast majority seem to want to leave.

    As I stated in my answer to the first question, I would have a strong presumption against prosecuting prostitution if elected as the Rockingham County Attorney, but at this time I would not have a presumption against prosecuting solicitation.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • No, incarceration cannot solve drug use, poverty, or homelessness. 

    First, I do not believe in criminalizing poverty or homelessness in any way.  I do not support panhandling laws and I believe that our communities would be much better off if we invested money in providing assistance to those in poverty and housing to those in need as opposed to spending money to enforce these laws and ordinances and to incarcerate individuals who simply have nowhere to live.  Homelessness and poverty are significant drivers in cases of theft and burglary in many parts of New Hampshire, and if we put meaningful supports in place to ease those issues, we should see a drop in those offenses.

    It is also obvious that punishing drug use through lengthy sentences of incarceration is not effective.  It is clear from the failure of the war on drugs and the prevalence of opioid misuse in New Hampshire that having serious criminal penalties on the books is not a cure-all for addiction.  That being said, I do believe in intervention in cases where people have become dependent on dangerous narcotic drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.  Many times people become dependent on these substances long before they are old enough or mature enough to understand the lifelong consequences that will stem from their use.  Individuals caught up in the misuse of these substances also find it almost impossible to break the cycle of use without significant outside intervention.  If there was a community mechanism outside of the criminal justice system that was available to provide the necessary treatment services to help these individuals fight their substance dependency, I would support that, but unfortunately New Hampshire only has a patchwork network of voluntary treatment programs that do not have the ability to enforce the kind of structure necessary to help individuals defeat their addictions to these substances.  Therefore, while I do not believe that incarceration can treat drug misuse, I do think the criminal justice system has a role to play in helping people break away from substance misuse until our State puts a different structure in place.

    As County Attorney, I would instruct my attorneys to place a major focus on rehabilitation and treatment, as opposed to any punitive sentences when it comes to issues of substance abuse.  We would make sure that our diversion program is utilized to its fullest potential to redirect people out of court and into treatment and rehabilitation programs.  Additionally, I would make sure to utilize all of the seats in the Drug Court and Mental Health Court to give individuals who would normally be sentenced to terms of incarceration a chance to receive meaningful treatment in the community.  I would also instruct my attorneys that they should never seek cash bail solely because someone is homeless.  There are many other alternative methods to supervise individuals who are homeless short of keeping them incarcerated during the pendency of their criminal case, including phone check-ins, meeting with pre-trial supervision, and regular court check-ins.  Pre-trial incarceration should be the last resort for individuals who represent a danger to the community, and individuals who refuse to voluntarily come to court after multiple chances.

12. Rockingham County - Pat Conway

Q.Rockingham County - Pat Conway
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real? Explain.

  • I believe that some people in our society may be predisposed to racism based on how that person was raised and what that particular person has been exposed to while on this earth.   Thus, it is possible that that there are people working in the criminal justice system that are racist. As the Rockingham County Attorney, I work hard to ensure that all people involved in the criminal justice system are treated fairly and justly regardless of the person’s race.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • The role of the prosecutor is extremely important.  The prosecutor makes charging decisions and sentencing recommendations to the Judge.  These decisions effect the lives of the defendant, the defendant’s family and friends, the victim, the victim’s family and friends and our community. I understand this and feel the full weight of these decisions on my shoulders, as do the Rockingham County Assistant County Attorneys.    At the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office, we do not consider a person’s race and/or color when determining the appropriate charge or sentence for a particular defendant.  My prosecutors are trained to consider the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s background (such as substance use disorder, mental health issues and/or past trauma) as well as the victim’s injuries and input when determining the appropriate and just charge and sentence.  We work tremendously hard to do the right thing for the community in every case.

    I will continue to train the employees in my office on the subject racism.  It is important to examine the reliable studies and statistics available and discuss as an office to ensure that we are not part of the potential problem. Furthermore, I will continue to train the Rockingham County Assistant County Attorneys to make charging and sentencing decisions based on factors such as the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s background (such as substance use disorder, mental health issues and/or past trauma) as well as the victim’s injuries and input when making these important decisions

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • The Rockingham County Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring that our police officers in Rockingham County are acting within the confines or our laws and the constitution. In Rockingham County, we have a public integrity unit that is charged with investigating police misconduct. If any public official, including a police officer, breaks the law, he or she will be charged and prosecuted. The laws in our state are applicable to everyone in our state regardless of a person’s position or title. The Rockingham County Attorney’s Office will not tolerate unethical and/or criminal behavior on the part of any person. 

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • First, I am not clear on the definition of “lower level drug offenses”. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a drug epidemic in our state and across the country. Our citizens are dying at alarming rates of drug overdoses on substances such as Fentanyl. As the County Attorney, parents of defendants have literally begged me to prosecute their adult child in order to save their child from the same fate. There is no easy answer to solving this problem, however, it’s clear that the criminal justice system cannot fix the problem on its own. In Rockingham County, we have multiple alternative sentencing programs available to defendants who may be charged with drug related offenses.  In lower level drug offenses, I support alternative sentencing programs such as Drug Court, Veteran’s Court, Mental Health Court or Adult Diversion. All these programs focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.  Whether a defendant is appropriate for this type of program depends of the facts of the case, the nature of the charge and the defendant’s criminal history. 

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • Absolutely not.  As the Rockingham County Attorney for almost 6 years and an Assistant County Attorney for 16 years, I have seen the devastation that prostitution and/or sex work can cause to our community. Women who work as prostitutes do not do so voluntarily.  In virtually every instance, women are forced to engage in this work through manipulation, supplying drugs to a person suffering from substance use disorder, physical threats and/or violence or desperation on the woman’s part.  These women suffer the most horrendous type of victimization and once they are involved in the work it is extremely difficult to get out. I will never support the decriminalization of conduct that demoralizes, degrades and harms, sometimes beyond repair, women. That said, if we recognize that a woman is a victim of human trafficking, the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office would focus its efforts on prosecuting the human trafficker, not the individual sex worker and /or prostitute. The Rockingham County Attorney’s Office recognizes that many women (and men) involved in sex work/prostitution are victims and should be treated as such.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • I do not believe that incarceration, in and of itself, solves the issues of drug use, poverty and homelessness. While our State Prison and the Rockingham County House of Corrections offer very good substance use disorder treatment programs, eventually all inmates are released into our community. If inmates or defendants do not have a stable place to live, continued treatment and the support of our community, sadly they will not succeed in living a sober, happy and productive life. As County Attorney I support and will continue to support transitional housing.  Transitional housing will offer our inmates a safe, sober and supportive environment to continue in their rehabilitation.  The Rockingham County Commissioners and Superintendent of the House of Corrections are all supportive of transitional housing. As a team, the Commissioners, Superintendent and myself are working on making transitional housing an option for inmates in Rockingham County.

13. Strafford County - Thomas Velardi

Q.Strafford County - Thomas Velardi
A.

1. Do you believe systemic racism in the criminal legal system of NH is real?  Explain.

  • The criminal legal system is made up of a series of human beings, and all human beings have learned or inherent biases and/or prejudices. So I accept the proposition that there is a potential for systematic racism in any system comprised of human decision makers. As far as how real that systematic racism is, that would require someone to be able to probe the motives of the actors in the system. I do not profess to have that power. I can only do what I have tried to do for the last twenty-one years, which is treat accused citizens individually based on the criminal allegations against them.

2. According to data released by the NHDOC, people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of the NH prison population. Do you believe people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in NH? What role, if any, do you believe prosecutors have played in the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH? If elected/re-elected, what will you do to end the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in NH?

  • I have not seen the data or report referred to in this question. Assuming the conclusion is true, the role of the prosecutor to cause the reported result would be (a) who gets charged with what crime and (b) who gets a recommendation for a sentence that carries a period of incarceration. If it was demonstrated that a prosecutor was charging one race with a felony and another race with a misdemeanor for the same conduct, then that prosecutor is contributing to the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. If a prosecutor has different sentencing recommendations for the same conduct based on race, then that prosecutor is contributing to the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. To be included in both possibilities is the fact that there is a defense lawyer and ultimately a judge who has to accept the parties’ negotiated resolution. So while the decisions of the prosecutor have a strong influence on the resolution of a case, it is a complicated proposition to suggest that the prosecution bar can single-handedly cause the result reported. But as an elected official, I have been on the lookout to see if there are differences in the way accused citizens of color are treated compared to others, and I will continue to do so.

3. If elected/re-elected, how will you promote police reform, specifically accountability for police misconduct including falsifying police reports?

  • I promote police reform by holding police officers accountable for official misconduct. This includes strict adherence to the 2017 guidelines set forth by Attorney General Foster on how to handle instances of police misconduct. I am glad to say that the police chiefs of Strafford County share my view that police misconduct must be rooted out and exposed whenever possible.

4. Do you support ending the enforcement of low-level drug offenses? Explain. If yes, would you commit to decreasing/deprioritizing the enforcement of low-level drug offenses in your county?

  • Questions about handling “low-level” enforcement of drug crimes are complicated because there are so many variables about what that means. Low level drug crimes used to mean enforcement of marijuana laws. Now some people use the phrase to refer to “user-amounts” of felony drugs. But even “user amount” is a loaded term, because many users are also selling to each other. Right now, the federal government and New Hampshire classify most street drugs as felony possession, no matter how much the amount is. As an elected official, I swear to uphold the laws of the United States and the State of New Hampshire. If I institute a policy for Strafford County that negates the otherwise valid arrests of persons for possession of controlled drugs, I am not upholding the laws of the United States or the State of New Hampshire. It is for the legislature to write the laws for the people. My job is to apply the law in a fair and common-sense manner. That has to include a response to the real dangers drug selling poses to our communities. But it also includes not automatically felonizing first possession charges. I have also aligned myself over the years with using alternative sentencing programs that offer addicted persons seeking help a real rehabilitative outcome. Whenever I can, I support the rehabilitated person’s petition to have the underlying criminal event annulled, so there is no lasting stigma of a criminal arrest. But I feel I have to work within these established legal confines, rather than ignore them by not enforcing the laws that are on the books. As far as drug enforcement policy goes, I have shared my approach with my local legislators who have asked me specifically what I do with “low level” offenders and I have explained my approach freely to them. I know one member of the Strafford County delegation introduced legislation to lower penalties for drug convictions, which would be consistent with my approach to “low level” drug enforcement.

5. Do you support the decriminalization of sex work? Explain. If yes, would you commit to establishing a strong presumption against prosecuting pandering or prostitution related offenses in your county if elected/re-elected?

  • The topic of decriminalizing sex work is loaded with misconceptions in practice. My experience does not include the narrative advanced by some national sex crime advocacy groups (and Hollywood) that sex work is a safe and voluntary occupation. My prosecutorial experience includes facts such as: abduction, physical abuse, metal abuse, child abuse, economic servitude, forced drug use. None of these trappings of “sex work” entices me to want to ignore what could really be going on behind the façade of the so-called arm’s length transaction of prostitution. These experiences do inform me about when and how these crimes should be investigated and charged, to try to get to the real root of the issue, which is the people actually profiting from the sex trade industry.

6. Do you believe incarceration solves drug use, poverty, or homelessness? If no, what would you do if elected/re-elected to deprioritize the use of the criminal legal system in addressing these issues?

  • No, no and no. Drug use is never “solved.” A person committed to recovery can live his or her life in remission, but the addiction is always there. Poverty and/or homelessness are symptoms of societal issues that have gone unaddressed for decades – the erosion of a real middle class with opportunities for employment, and the extraordinary amount of household income that goes to just having a roof over a person’s head are two economic pressures that continue to mount on people. Another that rarely gets spoken of often enough is the lack of real funding for community mental health systems. I was very proud to be on a panel with your agency at a UNH symposium that asked the simple question: what creates a criminal? Our topic was the lack of mental health services in the community, and what amounts to the abdication of the government to adequately fund community mental health centers in the wake of mass de-institutionalization starting in the 1960’s. I recognize all of these issues and others, and that turning to incarceration as an answer is no answer for the long-term solution to our collective societal problems. But here is the dilemma: I work in the criminal justice system, where the poor, the addicted, and the mentally ill are disproportionately swept into police cars, jail cells and prison cells. This is the real root of bloated incarceration numbers across the country.  In Strafford, all of the elected officials recognize this, and as a result we have established the first and longest running adult drug court, which is an alternative to incarceration for addicted persons. I am a team member. We have a mental health court, to offer wrap-around mental health services to persons in place of incarceration. I am a team member. I started an habitual offender academy years ago to assist drivers to meet their financial requirements to get their driving privileges restored instead of going to jail when it occurred to me it was mostly indigent people who were still driving while in habitual offender status. I am a team member of our local LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) which is a program run at the police level. The purpose of this program is to forgo entirely the arrest of persons engaged in typical homeless/transient behaviors and instead get those people directly into services. These are just some of the concrete ways I have tried to actively uphold the laws of the United States and the State of New Hampshire in a meaningful, common-sense way.  I am proud to say that the local police chiefs here in Strafford County are partners with me in these endeavors.  But your readers should consider the bigger issue at hand: how did all of these issues become criminal justice issues in the first place? Why are they not medical issues, for example?  My closing point is, we can talk about incarceration numbers all day. But you need to peel back how we got here and fix those issues so the most vulnerable members of our population don’t get swept into the criminal justice system just for being poor. There is only so much fixing a prosecutor can do with the equivalent of a tool box full of hammers. That is, the traditional response to the crime, which is punishment, while ignoring the symptom, which is poverty or addiction or mental illness or any combination of these. But as I have since I was appointed an Assistant Strafford County Attorney in 1999, Deputy Strafford County Attorney in 2003 and elected Strafford County Attorney since 2008, I will keep the issues you raise in your questionnaire close in mind as I continue to try to serve all the people of Strafford County in the role of County Attorney.

14. Sullivan County - Marc Hathaway

Q.Sullivan County - Marc Hathaway
A.

This candidate did not respond to the ACLU of NH questionnaire.