N.H. Female Inmates to Get New Prison

A Maine company is set to design New Hampshire’s new prison for women, a $38 million project that will relocate female prisoners from Goffstown to Concord in about three years.

A $2.4 million design contract with SMRT Inc. of Portland, Maine, will go before the Executive Council today. If approved, the company is expected to complete plans for the new prison in 2014, with construction starting in the spring of 2015 and the new facility opening in late 2016.

The 224-bed prison, to be built behind the men’s prison off North State Street in Concord, will replace the current women’s facility in Goffstown and, state officials hope, resolve a lawsuit filed last year by female prisoners over their lesser access to treatment and other services compared with male prisoners.

“The time has really come for this project for New Hampshire. There’s no question about that,” said Arthur Thompson, an architect and principal at SMRT.

The firm has considerable experience designing jails and prisons in New England, and the state Department of Administrative Services said SMRT was the most qualified among 10 companies that bid on the design contract.

SMRT designed the women’s unit at the Maine Correctional Center that opened in 2002 as well as four county jails in New Hampshire, including the 237-bed Merrimack County House of Corrections in Boscawen that opened in 2005.

The guidelines for the new women’s state prison call for the 224-bed facility to be “expandable to 350 beds” if needed.

Construction of a new women’s prison was proposed this year by Gov. Maggie Hassan and approved by overwhelming majorities in both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate. The new capital budget includes $38 million for the project.

The contract must be approved by the five-member Executive Council, which will meet today in Windham.