State prison inmates whose regular visits are scheduled on Sundays will have Christmas Day’s visit this year rescheduled to the following day because of short-staffing on weekends.
The rescheduling of Sunday, Christmas Day visits this year will be for the men’s prisons in Concord and Berlin, according to Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections.
Inmates still can’t receive Christmas cards or any type of cards because officials believe they could contain contraband. The ACLU-NH has filed suit in federal court trying to end the ban on cards. Click here for ACLU-NH lawsuit information.
This is separate from Christmas parties that are held for different units throughout the month of December, which will go on as scheduled, Lyons said. He couldn’t recall another year in which visits on Christmas Day were cancelled because they fell on a weekend.
“We’ve never had special visits on Christmas. Instead each housing unit has gathering and that is an extra visit,” Lyons said.
Inmates at the women’s prison in Goffstown who usually have visits on Sundays are expected to still be allowed visits on Christmas Day, Lyons said.
Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, said he couldn’t remember another time Christmas Day visits were cancelled.
“Christmas is such an emotional time,” Welch said, adding it must have been a compromise because of the problems the department has had in recent years with staffing and overtime.
Lyons wasn’t sure how many inmates would be affected by the Sunday Christmas visit switch. There are about 1,400 inmates in Concord and another 650 in Berlin. Every inmate is allowed two visits a week.
“I know why they are doing it. It’s because the department has been hounded because of short-staffing,” Welch said. “That decision, was not an easy one to make being it’s Christmas,” Welch said.
Otherwise, the department would have had to require the staff to work the extra overtime on Sunday and that wouldn’t have been fair, either, he said.
“It’s a compromise and the inmates are not losing the visit,” Welch said.
Welch said he understands that for inmates who were expecting family on Christmas Day, it could be upsetting.
A memo explaining the switch was posted on the Department of Corrections website on Nov. 16. Lyons said he hasn’t heard any complaints from family or inmates about the change.