View Full Version : A visit to the new Involuntary Accomodations in Berlin

09-24-2012, 01:13 PM
This probably a stretch on the VFTT universe, if the moderators feel it should be canned, go for it.

A lot of folks who visit the whites may not be aware that a new moderate sized town in the North County of NH is now slowly coming into existence. The federal government built a new prison in Berlin two years ago but due to lack of funding, the facility was not activated until this year. Last Friday they held an open house for anyone who wanted to see a federal prison on a voluntary basis. When the prison is fully staffed with a full complement of inmates the total number of people living or working at the site is going be close to 1400. The original rational for a federal prison in New England was that there was a chronic shortage of federal prison spaces in the region which meant that prisoners were serving their terms outside the region making family visitations difficult. Any new prison needed to be welcomed by a community and despite some initial reservations in the area, the offsetting loss of the local major employer and the ongoing need to create jobs in the area ended up convincing the majority of the city's residents that they would welcome the prison and its 330 new jobs. One misconception is that the prisoners will walk out the door at the end of their sentence in Berlin, apparently that will not happen as the prisoners are first remanded to a halfway house. The closest federal halfway house is in the Manchester area.

The new prison is a medium security facility with most prisoners serving a 10 year average sentence. Without debating the need or politics for more prisons, the best thing to say is the federal prison bureau seems to have the mechanics of housing inmates pretty well figured out. The facility is still hiring and training staff so they will not be full for awhile.

The first thing when driving up to the facility is that the views are incredible. For those who have been at the Mt View Grand in Whitefield, the range of views are similiar with approximately 270 degree views of the Mahoosucs, the Northern Presidentials and the Kilkennies all right there in front of you. Even the prison exercise yard is framed with a view of Mt Sucess and the Outlook with Carlo Col and Bald Cap ot the either side. I am not sure how prepared the staff is for a real winter as last year was quite mild but the reasons for having such great views may become a detriment when the westerly winds blow into an area that traditionally gets significant snow due to the local microclimate.

I expect that most folks who hike in the area can figure out the location but its quite apparent due to a tall water tower and a facility that looks like a military base.The total acerage is over 700 acres with around 650 acres in use. I expect during the daytime it may not be obvious to anyone who isnt looking for it but I expect that the folks at Madison Hut wil notice it at night when the lighting is on. To actually drive to the facility unless someone is familiar with Berlin, its a bit of a challenge and unless they drive up the road to the visitor parking lot the views are not apparent.

09-24-2012, 05:28 PM
Where exactly is this prison located? Is it off of East of River Road about two miles north of Burgess? It looks like a prison there on Bing Maps.
The company I work for in Pittsburgh, PA is doing the concrete and excavation work on the Burgess BioPower plant in Berlin. Yes, all local labor. Unfortunately it's not my project (or fortunately because I would never be at the site, there would be other distractions :eek:)
Seems like the economic future in Berlin is looking up.

09-24-2012, 06:58 PM
Who paid for these 4-star accomodations???

09-24-2012, 07:01 PM
I wonder if the AMC will lead them on group hikes? Perhaps a little winter camping. Maybe even a "winter skills course" in the event that some decide to "hike their own hike". :D

*Snowshoes and clothing provided by LLBEAN! Free hot drinks a the ''Hilton".

(Sorry...I couldn't resist.)

I am a little bit sad that now along with the stars and the moon, the hikers at Madison will see the lights of a Fed Prison.

09-24-2012, 11:58 PM
I am not sure how prepared the staff is for a real winter as last year was quite mild but the reasons for having such great views may become a detriment when the westerly winds blow into an area that traditionally gets significant snow due to the local microclimate.
All they have to do is go down to WalMart and pick up a couple dozen snow shovels (a helluva lot cheaper than GSA I'll bet) ... then the question is, how prepared are the guests ... or would that be considered cruel and unusual punishment? Oh woe! the indignity of having to shovel out their front yard.

The federal government has some history of hospitality in the area. Not far away in Stark, there was a POW camp during WW II. The guests there were kept at bay by the fear of bears in the woods.

I doubt every pre-release would go to the Manchester halfway house ... I speculate they'd be sent to one closest to their home. That's a continuum which elevates incarceration from strictly punishment to rehabilitation and the prospect of developing meaningful job skills. I'm aware that in Massachuestts county and state prisoners have been used in a public works capacity that, in many instances, was a win-win ... taxpayers reaped some benefit from the low cost labor and prisoners reaped the benefit of learning and practicing some employable skills.

09-25-2012, 06:06 AM
Without drifting the thread into politics, the prison is located adjacent to the State prison, so the folks at Madison Hut already had a view of a prison. It is on the East Side road that runs on the east side of the Androscoggin river from Berlin to Milan. The Nansen ski club had a cross country ski network in the area for many years(now relocated to Milan Hill State Park. The local moose tour busses used to go to the area as it had a couple of wetland complexes that tended to attract moose.

The terrain in the area makes the actual facilities hard to see when approaching them as the East Side road is in the river plain while the prisons are up on plateau a few hundred feet up from the road. They are visible on Rt 16 near the Berlin Milan line.

David Metsky
09-25-2012, 07:40 AM
Moderator Note:

This thread is fine because the economy of the north country is a valid concern for hikers. But please keep politics out of the discussion. We take that rule very seriously.

-the mods-

hiking lady
09-25-2012, 10:16 AM
I'm sad they chose where the old Nansen ski club was to build it, but logistically it makes sense since it is adjacent to the State Prison and out of the way. I xc skiied there a great deal as a teen and with my norse father (when he was well into his 80's). They had a nice network of trails there. :mad: I believe their new site up in Milan Hill State Park is limited and a bit hilly and challenging for those not well versed in xc skiing. I've yet to ski there.

If anyone is familiar with the Berlin area if you drive up Cates Hill which loops around and comes out above the Dairy Bar on Rte 16, you can get a glimpse of the enormous structure coming down Cates Hill. BTW- Cates Hill is a great drive to get a phenomenal view of the Kilkenny Range if you do the loop in the reverse you get a phenomenal view of the Mahoosics.

09-25-2012, 03:56 PM
I am a little bit sad that now along with the stars and the moon, the hikers at Madison will see the lights of a Fed Prison.

What about the lights of the Hut :eek: ?

Mike P.
09-28-2012, 02:55 PM
What about the lights of the Hut :eek: ?

From Madison you weren't looking at the hut anyway. Besides's Gorham isn't turned off at 10:00 PM, it just seems that way! :D

Now to find out what type of crime gets me a paid room & excercise yard with a view.... :(:eek::rolleyes:

(Do I tell my daughter that bad boyfriends are lost in the 100 mile wilderness or do I need to pass bad checks after that too)

09-28-2012, 03:21 PM
The tour guides stated that a majority of the "guests" were there for crimes that ultimately tied back to the use and abuse of drugs. A comment was made that they may get some tax cheats or forgers but not the high profile ones.

02-12-2013, 08:28 AM
A recent news article indicates that the prison is having a tough time filling positions


I have heard informally,

* Many of the targetted candidates got turned off by the delay in opening

* The entry level positions are not as attactive as for more experienced staff (who get relocation assistance and a guarantee that the government will buy back their house when they get reassigned).

* The candidates they are looking for are similar to those that the military are recruiting and the military has better signing bonuses

* The application process is computer scored and that unless someone takes part in their seminar, the odds of having the application rejected are high

* The requirement for good credit was such an issue that they were holding seminars on how to repair credit ratings.

* obviously the maximum age for an entry level employee to join the federal prison service (under40 ) locked out many folks

hiking lady
02-12-2013, 09:04 AM
i have an inkling that most of the positions that were filled were from people already employed at another Federal Prison in far away states like Az/Va, etc. I also think in addition to what you mentioned (which I believe) that families aren't thrilled with moving to area, where the school system leaves much to be desired, as well as the look of Berlin is a turnoff in itself. Hence why alot of people who bought homes, bought them in the outlying towns of Gorham/Milan/West Mlan/Shelburne, etc. So much for that "economic boom" they were hoping for. If you drive around town, you can see house after house for sale and EMPTY. When I was up there a couple of weekends ago, just on my father's street, there were 5 empty houses out of 7 for sale just on his street alone!! Somehow none of this surprises me.