If you are a black man in prison in the State of New Hampshire apparently punishment is much more important than rehabilitation. At least according to Judge Diane Nicolosi. When Tony went for his sentence reduction (RSA 651:20) he was told “deterrence and punishment are important goals of sentencing” and “the weight of each depends on the nature of the crime, the harm caused, and the person before the court.”
Okay, time to get legal: RSA 651:20 (the 2/3 Sentence Reduction portion of the Statute) says nothing about the crime. Check it out below:
(651:20 Incarceration Under Suspended Sentence. –
I. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except as provided in subparagraphs (a), (b), and (c), the sentence to imprisonment of any person may be suspended by the sentencing court at the time of imposition of the sentence or at any time thereafter in response to a petition to suspend sentence which is timely brought in accordance with the limitations set forth below in subparagraphs (a), (b), and (c).
(a) Any person sentenced to state prison for a minimum term of 6 years or more shall not bring a petition to suspend sentence until such person has served at least 4 years or 2/3 of his minimum sentence, whichever is greater, and not more frequently than every 3 years thereafter. Any person sentenced to state prison for a minimum term of less than 6 years shall not bring a petition to suspend sentence until such person has served at least 2/3 of the minimum sentence, or the petition has been authorized by the sentencing court. For the purposes of this subparagraph:
(1) For concurrent terms of imprisonment, the minimum term shall be satisfied by serving the longest minimum term imposed, and the maximum term shall be satisfied by serving the longest maximum term.
(2) For consecutive terms of imprisonment, the minimum terms of each sentence shall be added to arrive at an aggregate minimum term, and the maximum terms of each sentence shall be added to arrive at an aggregate maximum term.
(b) A petition to suspend the sentence of any state prisoner may be brought at any time if, prior to the petition being filed, the commissioner of the department of corrections has found that the prisoner is a suitable candidate for suspension of sentence.
(c) A petition to suspend the sentence of any state prisoner may be brought at any time by the attorney general in recognition of substantial assistance by the inmate in the investigation or prosecution of a serious felony offense.
(d) Petitions filed which do not meet the criteria in (a), (b), or (c) above shall be dismissed without a hearing.
II. A person whose sentence has been suspended may be required to report to the institution to which he has been sentenced to be incarcerated during weekends or at such times or intervals of time as the court may direct, except that weekend sentence provisions do not apply to the New Hampshire state prison. Time so spent in said institution shall be deducted from the maximum term, and where there are both a minimum and maximum term, from both. Any part of a day spent in the institution shall count as a full day toward the sentence.
III. As a condition of any suspension of sentence, the court may include restitution to the victim, as provided in RSA 651:62-67, performance of uncompensated public service as provided in RSA 651:68-70, and such other conditions as the court may determine.)
As you can see, it is about the person’s rehabilitation and how they spent their time in prison. Not only did Tony manage to get the equivalent of a few speeding tickets in 10 years, but he put a heroic amount of effort into not only his own rehabilitation but the rehabilitation of others.
According to Judge Nicolosi, we should look at the person. One look at Tony’s accomplishments while incarcerated tells us a lot about him. Here’s his prison record.
As part of his rehabilitation efforts, he clocked over 400 hours in the Family Communication Center to keep up the communications with his family, putting in the time and effort to be a better husband and father. From 2015 on Tony attended a life coaching series called Building Bridges while also doing Children of Incarcerated Parents and children’s literacy seminars, maintained a job as a maintenance worker, all the while working double shifts, and remaining on-call.
He works with the Resident Communication Committee attending meetings with the warden and commissioner along with state representatives and lawmakers. Where he speaks out about issues with the prison system and drawing attention to problems that other residents have faced with rehabilitation.
He worked in the chapel helping others establish and keep healthy relationships with their family while working on his own faith. Tony cleaned the visiting room and performed woodworking, took classes on everything from typing to poetry. He even got a part-time job as a barber where he acts as a counselor as much as a barber. Check out all of his rehabilitation efforts here.
Tony even has a signed letter of recommendation from the commissioner indicating that the Review Board weighed the details of the criminal offense against his “robust rehabilitative activities” and stated he qualified to be released… let that sink in for a moment. The freaking commissioner of the prison basically said we think he should get his ⅔ sentence reduction. See it here.
Even Judge Nicolosi said “he has made great efforts in prison to reform” and that “he is a good model of what Corrections hopes to achieve.” The Order found here states very plainly that “the Court has reviewed the extensive filings and is impressed with the defendant’s rehabilitative efforts. Mr. Hebert presents with strong recommendations from a variety of sources, and it is clear that he has made great efforts in prison to reform and be a positive member of his family and a strong support for others.”
However, we as a society through our elected officials have said NO! This is not enough!! That he has not been punished enough. The Order goes on to say that “…punishment and general deterrence must be seen as weightier factors than rehabilitation.”
The court further said, “nonetheless, the defendant’s effort appear extraordinary and well worth the Court’s consideration at a later time if they continue and he remains of good behavior.”
This is horrifying and wrong on so many levels. Not only does it say some disturbing things about us as a people. It says that despite the fact that he did everything right and 90% of the people currently in prison will be getting out someday, we have no interest in reforming them. No interest in helping them.
As the Judge said, “look at the person before the court.” His actions while in prison speak louder than anything else. The only thing he did wrong was being born the wrong color. Don’t believe me? Check out this article that was in the Union Leader article By the Numbers by Mark Hayward The article has since, of course, been “updated” by the Union Leader.
If you want to help Tony get back to his wife and kids or if you live in New Hampshire, write your Senator/State Representative and tell them you will not take this BS or use code “Tony” when buying an account, as a portion of all sales from this article will go towards helping Tony in his legal struggle so use code “Tony” at purchase.