On Monday, I visited with Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo for what was supposed to be a 1-hour session to help me better understand the workings of the Drug Court. Our session turned into a 2-1/2 hour comprehensive review of the NH criminal justice system, Grafton County crime trends, and new emerging crises for our law enforcement/prosecution teams.
Three things stuck with me from our discussion:
- The drug/opioid crisis is a real and growing threat which is causing an explosion in burglary and theft as addicts attempt to feed their drug habits.
- We are now dealing with a highly dangerous threat to our children – an explosion in on-line sex crimes. While sex crimes have always been a problem, the internet and social media have increased the threat to children exponentially, and a sex crimes investigator with the specialized training and resources is needed ASAP to combat sexual predators.
- A felony Mental Health Court would provide much better diversion options for people with specific mental health issues (e.g. veterans with PTSD, people with schizophrenia). Though we have a misdemeanor Mental Health court, the County Attorney believes a felony Mental Health court will enable us to better deal with the increasing number of felony crimes caused by mental health issues.
The overview is this: the evolution of our legal system from dealing only with the consequences of crime to addressing causation is complex and expensive. In the long run, properly administered, it should reduce fiscal and human costs of long-term incarceration and repeat criminal behavior.
Many thanks to our law enforcement/criminal justice team for the difficult and sometimes dangerous work you do for the citizens, businesses and institutions of New Hampshire.