ACLU-NH Opposes Collecting DNA from People Who Are Civilly Committed

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Photos taken at the Secure Psychiatric Unit at state prison where mentally ill people who haven't committed a crime are housed with criminals who suffer from mental illness.

Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU-NH

Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU-NH

Devon Chaffee, executive director of ACLU of New Hampshire, asked lawmakers to vote no on Senate Bill 339 that would allow the collection of DNA from mentally ill people who haven’t committed a crime.

Dear Honorable Representatives:

I am writing to respectfully urge you to vote NAY on OTP on SB 339-FN, a bill that expands New Hampshire’s DNA collection regime to include civilly-committed individuals who have committed no crime, thereby violating the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures.

SB 339-FN, as amended by the Senate, mandates DNA sampling of the mentally ill who have entered the mental health system rather than the criminal justice system and have then ended up within the reach of Department of Corrections by virtue of a transfer to the Secure Psychiatric Unit of the NH State Prison (SPU).  It also includes those who had been in the criminal justice system but who have exited it without conviction by virtue of their mental illness and are at the SPU.

SB 339-FN troublingly targets the mentally ill by proposing an unprecedented regime. We are aware of no other state that requires the collection of DNA concerning civilly committed individuals in the civil mental health system.  The federal Combined DNA Index System does not collect DNA samples from such individuals who have only engaged in the civil mental health system. In fact, other states, such as Massachusetts, explicitly exclude the civilly committed in their DNA collection regime.  The bill also sends the wrong message that the state of New Hampshire will treat individuals receiving treatment for a mental illness as criminals even absence any criminal conviction.

HB 339-FN amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy to those who have not been convicted of a crime, and the ACLU of New Hampshire strongly recommends that the House reject the bill.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Sincerely,

Devon Chaffee, executive director of ACLU of New Hampshire

 

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