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April 9, 2020
For immediate release
Contact: Amanda Grady Sexton, (603) 548-9377
New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence statement on the release of violent offenders due to COVID-19
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence represents a statewide network of 13 member programs that serve survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. We would like to express our deep concerns over the early release of violent offenders from jails and prisons due to COVID-19.
Across the United States, and sadly now in New Hampshire, flawed policies have begun to prioritize rights of criminal offenders over justice and the rights of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The policies are not only misguided but will lead to increased violence and fear in our communities.
Throughout the nation, calls to release violent offenders have taken hold as a humane way to protect “vulnerable” prisoners from contracting the coronavirus. Despite a narrative that only non-violent offenders would be released, the Coalition has seen an alarming number of criminals with violent histories freed who have already reoffended. Many who are incarcerated have underlying mental health and substance abuse issues and currently have no stable supports or housing options. Outside of jails or prisons, many of these offenders do not have access to treatment options which are fundamental to their recovery. Without these supports their likelihood of successful re-entry into society is greatly diminished.
This disturbing trend not only serves to burden an already stressed law enforcement system at a time when all resources are needed, it creates an enormous amount of fear and anxiety for victims.
On April 3, 2020, Terrance Perkins was granted an early release from the Carroll County House of Corrections early due to concerns over his health and possible increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Mr. Perkins was convicted and sentenced for two felony charges related to using a gun to threaten a person known to him and a child in Tamworth in 2016.
Mr. Perkins not only has a history of violence, he also allegedly assaulted a female corrections officer while in custody and has been trying to reobtain his guns which were taken after his arrest, seeking to have them returned to him even prior to his early release hearing. These three facts in this case serve as enormous red flags for potential future violence and were completely disregarded.
Toward the end of the hearing to consider early release, Judge Amy Ignatius agreed with jail superintendent Jason Henry, who said he could not ensure Perkins' safety from the virus while in custody. "This isn't about sympathy to Mr. Perkins," said Ignatius. "This isn't about feeling he should get special treatment. It has to do with the overall facility and the management of that facility in a way that's safe for everyone."
When a judge considers what is "…safe for everyone" that decision must consider the rights and safety of victims of abuse. The rights of violent prisoners to be safe should never supersede the rights of their victims. In a state where over 50% of homicides are domestic violence related, much greater care and consideration must be taken before making decisions that could threaten the lives and safety of women and children.
"We have the research and the data models to know that individuals that commit acts of domestic violence with a deadly weapon pose a high risk, and that is exactly what Mr. Perkins was convicted of and was sentenced for,” stated Tiffany Roberts, the Family Violence Prevention Specialist for Starting Point, the Coalition member program serving Carroll County.
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the Granite State, staying at home remains the safest option to avoid exposure for most, yet, this movement to release prisoners overlooks the right of survivors to feel safe in their own home. Coronavirus has already shown to have an impact on violent behavior across the globe. This pandemic does not serve as a factor for diminishing violence but creates unprecedented opportunities for abusers to reoffend.
“Victims across the state are scared that their abuser is going to be released and they are frantically working to create safety plans,” said Pamela Keilig, Public Policy Specialist for the Coalition. “Survivors of abuse should not be forced into a situation where they must live on the run because of the actions of the criminal justice system.”
The Coalition hopes that those working in the criminal justice system reconsider this misguided and reactive process of the early release of violent offenders. These actions are creating even more public safety concerns in the midst of a pandemic.
If you or a loved one are experiencing violence or abuse you are not alone and there is help. Advocates are available to provide support, information and create a plan for safety. Services are free and confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To learn more visit www.nhcadsv.org.
CONFIDENTIAL STATEWIDE HOTLINES
24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline:
24-hour Sexual Assault Hotline:
About the Coalition:
NHCADSV is a statewide network of 13 independent member programs committed to ending sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking, through direct services to victims, community education, and public policy advocacy. The NHCADSV and its 13 member programs do not discriminate based on gender, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental, or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation. For more information visit www.nhcadsv.org.