The full House voted Wednesday to send a bill back to committee that would have expanded DNA collection to include civilly committed patients who haven’t committed a crime.
State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who has been fighting to remove non-criminal patients from the Secure Psychiatric Unit at the State Prison for Men where they are housed with mentally ill convicted felons, has led the fight against Senate Bill 339.
Cushing said in the middle of the floor debate on Senate Bill 339 Wednesday, the Speaker recognized Rep. John Tholl, chairman of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, who made a motion to send the bill back to his committee.
The motion was approved by a voice vote and the committee will reconsider its 10-3 support for passage of the bill, Cushing said.
“I am confident that when the CJ&PS committee takes up SB 339 again that it strip from the bill the provisions that require testing of mentally ill persons who have never committed a crime,” Cushing said.
Cushing said concern crossed party lines about New Hampshire further criminalizing and stigmatizing people with mental illnesses.
“A number of legislators were shocked to find out that the bill that was being recommended for passage would make mentally ill individuals involuntarily committed to the State Hospital and transferred to the Secure Psychiatric Unit who refused to have their DNA taken could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and sentenced to a year in jail,” Cushing said.
“The House of Representatives was not ready today to make New Hampshire the first state in the country to require people involuntarily committed to a state institution because of severe mental illnesses to have their DNA taken by state police to be dumped into the state criminal database,” he said.
Cushing said the House Republican Alliance — closely identified with former Speaker Bill O’Brien, and the NH Liberty Alliance — identified with the Free State Project/Libertarians, both urged legislators to defeat the bill.