Community Commentary in Response to Articles Re: HOC COVID cases 5-18-20

May 18, 2020

Editor

Fosters’ Daily Democrat/Seacoast Online News

Union Leader

NHPR

Community Commentary Section

Dear Editor:

Over the last several years, the Strafford County House of Corrections (HOC) has developed into a model facility recognized throughout the region for its fair treatment of incarcerated individuals. This treatment includes outstanding medical care for which the facility has been recognized with two (2) Outstanding Achievement Awards, Programming, including General Education Development (GED), now known as HI SET, where sixty to seventy (60 to 70) inmates per year secure their high school equivalency diploma, and a comprehensive Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program for those inmates who come to us sick with drug additions. In addition, the HOC dedicates separate physical space to administer educational programs that includes the Therapeutic Community for drug addicted male offenders and the Women’s Recovery Center for drug addicted female offenders. This comprehensive three (3) phase (minimum twelve [12] week program) focuses on helping the addicted person better understand their addiction and how to best combat their illness. All of these treatment efforts complement the excellent staff and leadership at the facility.

A Court battle has ensued over the last few weeks regarding the HOC’s holding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inmates at the facility. The HOC has, for some time, been a host site for civil immigration detainees making their way through the Federal process of deportation.   We take pride in the fact that we can offer these persons a safe and humane place on their journey through the system.  We view that as good government “doing the right thing.”  But this case has been published front and center recently, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This court case has somehow turned the Strafford County House of Corrections from being viewed by both independent third party auditors and judges at the state and federal levels as a model facility for others to emulate, into a scapegoat for the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) long-held position that all ICE detainees everywhere in the United States should be released immediately.

What is not reported by those who seek to gain from this situation are the many extraordinary steps taken by Strafford County to keep all persons in its care safe.   As an example, we went through the extraordinary measure of testing over 400 County Complex employees to determine if they were asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers. Instead of recognizing this measure and being praised for this move to

protect nursing home residents, inmates, co-workers, and employees’ families, the facility was vilified for the one (1) employee who was identified as an asymptomatic carrier. What is ignored is that fact that it was the forethought and preparedness of the HOC that caught the symptoms of the positive employee before any other staff or inmate was placed in harm’s way.  Through adherence to best practices and the abundance of voluntary testing, this employee had no inmate contact. The facility was also chastised when a new inmate was diagnosed with COVID-19. The negative ACLU comments were generated even before everyone learned that the system created by the facility to combat any spread of COVID-19 was successful in quarantining the inmate upon admission so there was NO inmate contact and NO staff exposure. The system worked, again, owing to dedication to best medical practices, excellent staff training, and fidelity to our overall mission of caring for those in our custody. But that was not recognized by the ACLU’s pleadings or public comments. One only hopes that this lack of recognition was not ignored because it did not meet the ACLU’s legal or political goals.  

The HOC does not have the power or authority to choose who to accept, or not accept, when arrestees are brought in by area law enforcement officials. What can be expected of the HOC is to safely manage any health threat. They did so in the cases of the two positive instances noted here, as well as several other unreported instances of false self-reportings previously.  For all of these instances of managing this pandemic that has stymied the entire world in a professional manner, we believe our HOC should be recognized for its efforts, and commended for them.   When so many other institutions have been ravaged by the effects of COVID 19, our HOC continues to be a safe place for those housed there.

We support the ACLU and their mission. Who wouldn’t support an agency whose job is to support the United States Constitution? We also have jails for a reason, and our county has been a national model for diversion and rehabilitation in that jail where appropriate.  But we do implore this agency to use the facts accurately and completely as it makes public comments about its court case, and not use a great facility as their scapegoat in an effort to get the desired end result for that case or a larger political agenda.  We have too many dedicated people working too hard here for our County to not speak out on their behalf, and to show all of the good things that they are doing to keep the inmate population safe, and as a result, all of us in Strafford County safer.

Very truly yours,

                                                George Maglaras

                                                George Maglaras, Chairman

                                               

                        Robert J. Watson

                                                Robert J. Watson, Vice Chairman

                                               

                        Deanna S. Rollo

                                                Deanna S. Rollo, Clerk

IMPORTANT!

NOTICE OF BUILDING CLOSURE

EFFECTIVE TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2020

Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the Strafford County Courthouse will be closed to the public, with the following exceptions:

  • Individuals who need to do business with Circuit and Superior Court clerk’s offices;

  • Individuals involved in court hearings permitted by the New Hampshire Supreme Court Order dated March 16, 2020; and

  • Individuals with pre-approved business with County or State personnel.

For those entering the Courthouse, a brief survey will be conducted to ensure the health and safety of yourself and personnel.

All essential State and County personnel will be allowed into the building to conduct business. Please be supportive and patient as we work together to fight this pandemic and keep our personnel safe. We thank you in advance for your support and cooperation.

Based on the potential devastating effects of the Coronavirus (Covid-19), we are taking all steps suggested by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to deter the disease’s progress. Strafford County’s Team has been working diligently and the closure of the Courthouse was determined the best course of action to continue to protect staff from the likely spread of the Corona virus (Covid-19).

                                                                        Raymond F. Bower

                                                                        Raymond F. Bower

                                                                        County Administrator

 

 

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From Left to Right: Michael Garcia, JIP, Jim Brown, Charlie Griffith, Vigilant Inc., Commissioners Maglaras, Watson and Rollo 

The Strafford County Commissioners, along with primary partners of Vigilant, Incorporated of Dover, are pleased to announce a public/private partnership for the production of First Responder Face Shields. At this time, 10,000 face shields will be produced, 650 of them going to our nursing, corrections, and security staff at the County.

Vigilant Incorporated Charles Griffiths and Jim Brown were present at the Strafford County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, April 9, 2020 to meet with the Commissioners and Michael Garcia, Director of the Jail Industries Program to “seal the deal” on the contract for services. Vigilant, located at 85 Industrial Park Drive in Dover, New Hampshire operates a specialty woodwork business, but has shifted some of its production capacity to produce 10,000 NIH-approved face shields using a crowd-sourced design from a consortium of manufacturers.

Strafford County Commissioner George Maglaras praised the agreement as a true community service to help protect all first responders. The partnership allows the face shields to be produced at a substantially lower price. Jail Industries Program Director Michael Garcia stated that the inmates working in this program and making the shields are very pleased to have the opportunity to give back to the community.

We continue to take great measures to protect our nursing home residents, detainees/ inmates at the House of Corrections, and our employees. These measures include following all Federal and State recommended infection precautions and consist of employee screening prior to entering the work place, the use of masks, face shields, and other preventative gear (PPE) beyond the basic recommendations, and good hand sanitizing.

Remember to keep all employees who are working hard to keep you and those they serve safe during these challenging times in your thoughts and prayers. We are in this together and we will get through this together.

Strafford County Commissioners

George Maglaras, Chairman
Robert J. Watson, Vice Chairman
Deanna S. Rollo, Clerk

WELCOME TO STRAFFORD COUNTY, NH!


Welcome you to the Strafford County website. Whether you are a current, past, or prospective resident, we hope you enjoy your visit to our virtual home.

County Functions and Responsibilities

The County is currently responsible for: Caring for the elderly in need of nursing home care at Riverside Rest Home; operating a regional jail/house of correction, together with a jail industries program, community corrections program, drug and mental health courts, and a transitional housing program; the County Attorney oversees and provides for the prosecution of criminals; operates a domestic violence unit, child advocacy center, and family justice center; the Sheriff oversee and handles the transportation of criminals, delivery of writs and other Court-related paperwork, operates a Communications and Dispatch Center, and oversees Courthouse security; the Register of Deeds is responsible for the recording of official land transfer documents at the Registry; the Treasurer, together with the Commissioners, oversee the payment of all County financial obligations; as well as a variety of other community-related programs to assist the citizens of the County.

County Government’s Structure

The structure of County government today is modeled after a basic three-branch system of government. The three County Commissioners make up the Executive branch, with responsibility for the day‑to‑day operations of County government, in both fiscal and policy matters. In Strafford County, the Commissioners are elected for two-year terms, at large, meaning from anywhere in Strafford County.

By virtue of election to the State House, a Representative also becomes a member of the County Delegation, which in many counties meets several times a year. The Delegation works primarily on matters of budgeting, exercising its responsibility for appropriating money for County use, which makes up the Legislative branch of County government. It is likely that relatively few New Hampshire voters realize that when they elect their Representatives to the State House of Representatives they are also making them the legislative authority of their County.

Current County Events

Strafford County is made up of three cities: Dover, Rochester, and Somersworth; and ten towns: Barrington, Durham, Farmington, Lee, Madbury, Middleton, Milton, New Durham, Rollinsford, and Strafford, and is home to approximately 125,000 citizens. There are ten (10) counties in New Hampshire, of which Strafford County is the fourth largest in population. According to the 2010 Census the County's population was estimated at 123,143, with 80% of the population over the age of 18 and a median age of approximately 34. Strafford County's estimated racial/ethnic composition in 2010 was 94% White, 1% Black or African American, 3% Asian, and 0.2% American Indian or Alaskan Native, with the remainder of the population being made up of small percentages of other races. Individuals of Hispanic or Latino origin comprised almost 2% of the County’s population. There were 46,576 households reported in 2006-2010. The Census also found that the median household income in the County was $57,809.

A Brief History of Strafford County Government

County Government in New Hampshire began in 1771 with five (5) counties: Rockingham, Strafford, Hillsborough, Cheshire, and Grafton. Strafford County was organized at Dover in 1771 and was named after William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford. Today, the County borders on Belknap, Carroll, Merrimack, and Rockingham Counties in New Hampshire and York County in Maine. The Court system was once a part of County Government, but is now operated by the State of New Hampshire. Roads, which were also previously the responsibility of the County, are now cared for by the State of New Hampshire or the city or town in which they are located. The State Department of Health and Human Services provides services to assist families and juveniles with behavior problems. These services were also provided by the County at one time.

We hope this little synopsis of County government has enlightened you as to the workings at this level of government in New Hampshire. For further information on individual offices and departments within the County, please go to their web page.

 

Very truly yours,

Strafford County Commissioners

George Maglaras

George Maglaras, Chairman

 Robert J. Watson

Robert J. Watson, Vice Chairman

 Deanna Rollo

 Deanna Rollo, Clerk

Spring 2015

NEWS RELEASE

STRAFFORD COUNTY

 

The Strafford County Commissioners are proud to announce that a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting has been awarded to Strafford County by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.

 

The Award for Financial Reporting Achievement has been awarded to the Finance Department of Strafford County, as designated by the GFOA as primarily responsible for preparing the award-wining CAFR.

 

The CAFR has been judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive “spirit of full disclosure” to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR.

 

At the March 12, 2015 meeting of the County Commissioners, it was publicly announced that the County’s Finance Department, was the recipient of this prestigious award. They congratulated Diane Legere, Finance Director, and her team, for doing a great job and providing high quality work deserving of such an award. It is a reflection of the high quality of work that is performed throughout the County. The Commissioners are very proud of the employees at the County, and in particular, those in the Finance Department, for their hard work and great work ethic.

 

The GFOA is a non-profit, professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals with offices in Chicago, IL and Washington, D.C.