Amanda Hartness was seen Oct. 26 with (from left) commissioners Matt Plache and Terry McCarthy, Jail Superintendent Sean Eldridge, Sen. Jeb Bradley and wife, Karen Bradley. Hartness died in a tent on Christmas Eve in Manchester on one of the coldest nights of the year. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)
OSSIPEE — In October, she was feted by county officials and state Sen. Jeb Bradley as a model inmate at the Carroll County Jail. On Christmas Eve, she was found dead in a tent outside a homeless shelter in Manchester.
Amanda Hartness, 34, formerly of Deerfield, was transferred to Carroll County to serve time for a parole violation stemming from reckless conduct and theft convictions in Rockingham County. She was at the county jail from Aug. 3-Dec. 15.
While there, she not only earned her high school equivalency degree, called a HiSET, which she achieved with a high score, she also graduated from the Carroll County Department of Corrections Transitional Re-entry Under Supportive Treatment program, which took about two months to complete.
Attending her graduation ceremony were Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and his wife, Karen; Carroll County commissioners Terry McCarthy (R-Conway) and Mathew Plache (R-Wolfeboro); Jail Superintendent Sean Eldridge; and Carroll County Adult Education Director Crystal Sawyer.
The Union Leader reported a woman was found dead Dec. 24 in a tent just outside Families in Transition on a day of 10-degree weather. She was later identified as Hartness. The cause of death is under investigation; toxicology reports are pending.
On Thursday, Plache told the Sun: “I’m terribly saddened by this. We need a full and complete investigation of how this happened.
“We just need better programs at the state level,” he said. “This really is a state problem. And we need transitional housing in Carroll County.”
Eldridge said the jail did everything it could for Hartness while she was there but does not have any supervision of her beyond her release date. He said she was released to a family member and had housing at Adira Sober Living in Goffstown and was set up with the SOS Recovery Community Organization. He said apparently Hartness left Adira on her own accord.
“I really anticipated Ms. Hartness being successful in her life,” said Eldridge. “This came as quite a shock to us to all of us. We all anticipated this to be an extreme success story because she was so successful in-house with her HiSET testing.”
Eldridge stands by the TRUST program, saying statistics show it works. He said the recidivism rate for inmates who don’t go through the program is about 53 percent but only 22 percent for those who do.
Bradley was also saddened to hear of Hartness’ death. “She seemed to have really turned her life around and was very positive,” said Bradley.
Asked what could be done to prevent things like this from happening, Bradley replied he will co-sponsor a comprehensive housing bill with state Sen. Dan Innis (R-Bradford startingwith $25 million for the affordable housing fund and $20 million for the next two years for homeless services.
“I think, clearly, the problem is significant and growing very rapidly,” Bradley said. “We’re going to have to address it. I think we can enhance these homeless services.”
Like Plache, he said an investigation should be done to find out why Hartness was in a tent on one of the coldest nights of the year.
“We need to know more details of what happened ... Why was she in the situation she was in and not in transitional housing?”
At the graduation ceremony, Carroll County Adult Education Director Crystal Sawyer said, “Amanda has proved that not only did she pass one exam at college level, but she passed four out of the five exams at college level. I also want to mention that Amanda took three exams in one day. That has not happened in years with our students at our school.”
Commenter Luanna Vollmer described Hartness on the InfoNH Facebook page.
“Hartness had bright eyes, an infectious smile and tons of energy,” Vollmer said. “But she also had challenges and created challenges.
“It’s sad she couldn’t find a place to thrive,” she said,
“Her rough edge and raspy voice will linger in the minds of those who knew her and hopefully motivate all who knew her to do a little better, try a little harder.”
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