Hollis man out of prison; wants more freedom

CONCORD – Andrew Butler, 21, is focused on rebuilding his life after being kept in state custody for close to a year, including several months as a prisoner in the New Hampshire State Prison.

“They shouldn’t have kept me in so long,” he said.

Andrew Butler is back home in Hollis with his father, Doug Butler, and he’s started taking classes at Nashua Community College. On Wednesday, Andrew Butler and his father went to the federal court in Concord to again battle with state officials regarding the habeas corpus petition that initially resulted in his release.

Andrew Butler filed the habeas corpus writ earlier this year after he had been housed at the New Hampshire State Hospital for months, before being forcibly transferred to the state prison’s secure psychiatric unit in January. The state prison is the only state facility with a secure psychiatric unit. In the unit, Andrew Butler was allegedly treated as a convicted criminal, and allegedly suffered from being tased and locked down 23 hours per day.

Andrew Butler was initially committed involuntarily last year after a bad reaction to use of a recreational drug. He said Wednesday he had recovered enough after a month to be released, but hospital staff kept him in the facility.

Doug Butler said keeping the habeas corpus writ alive will allow his son to petition the federal court for relief from state control. Andrew Butler is on conditional discharge from the state prison, and his care is being managed by a state-appointed guardian.

“He can’t even get his own (medical) records,” Doug Butler said.

Andrew Butler said things are going well, and he is responding well to his care. Doug Butler pointed out that the doctors his son sees report to state officials. He is unable to change doctors if he disagrees with their care decisions.

All of the motions for Wednesday’s hearing are sealed, while the hearing itself was not held in open court.

Renny Cushing, the Hampton Democratic lawmaker who is supporting the Butlers, said there are many people in New Hampshire with similar stories.

“We don’t know how many other situations like this there are,” Cushing said.

Cushing continues to champion a state facility to replace the system, which effectively criminalizes mental health patients. Until the state ends the practice of jailing the mentally ill, it is liable, he said.

“A class action lawsuit is inevitable,” Cushing said.

For now, Andrew Butler wants to keep enjoying the sunshine, continue with his philosophy and computer programming classes, and continue getting better.

“It’s pretty sweet. I have a lot more freedom now,” Andrew Butler said Wednesday.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.