The New Hampshire Home rejected a measure geared toward sending fewer kids to the state’s troubled youth detention heart Thursday after baby advocates argued it could have had the alternative impact.
The disagreement arose as lawmakers inch nearer to changing the Sununu Youth Companies Middle in Manchester, a 144-bed facility that prices the state $13 million per yr whereas usually housing fewer than a dozen teenagers each day. Debate about closing the middle started years in the past, however got here to a boil amid horrific sexual abuse allegations stretching again a long time.
After failing to fulfill their very own March 2023 deadline to close it down, lawmakers not too long ago allotted cash to pick a website for a brand new, a lot smaller facility however the stopgap measure left many particulars unresolved.
NEW HAMPSHIRE REACHES FIRST SETTLEMENT WITH PHYSICAL, SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM FROM YOUTH DETENTION CENTER
Hoping to maneuver ahead, the state Home handed a invoice Thursday that might fund a 12-bed facility, with room for as much as 18, and allocating roughly $22 million for design and building, with as a lot cash as potential coming from federal COVID-19 aid support. The invoice, which now goes to the state Senate, additionally begins outlining medical and security pointers for the brand new facility, together with a concentrate on therapeutic and trauma-informed care of kids.
Whereas there’s broad settlement on such an strategy, some lawmakers mentioned the invoice falls quick. Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Democrat from Durham, mentioned it’d replicate the identical mismanagement and hurt to juveniles in its care.
“There’s nothing that claims we received’t be doing the identical issues we’ve been doing for years and failing — the identical issues that triggered greater than 1,000 kids to allege bodily and sexual abuse,” she mentioned.
Smith supported a failed modification to the invoice that might have required future leaders of the middle to be consultants in serving to kids with particular wants, not corrections officers. It additionally would have prevented kids from being despatched to the ability if they’d fewer than three prior convictions for low-level crimes. Supporters mentioned that might stop pointless incarceration of youth, however opponents mentioned it could have unintended penalties.
Underneath present regulation, officers generally briefly detain kids who commit low-level crimes to take away them from harmful properties whereas they prepare a spot for them to remain, comparable to a foster residence. Baby advocates opposed the modification to require three prior convictions, arguing that it could incentivize regulation enforcement to deliver extra fees in order that they might receive a short detention.
NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO KEEP TROUBLED YOUTH DETENTION CENTER OPEN FOR 2 MORE YEARS
“Should you make it tougher to place anyone on this new trauma-informed, therapeutic heart, what’s going to occur is you’re encouraging regulation enforcement and judges to escalate fees,” mentioned Republican Rep. Jess Edwards, of Auburn, sponsor of the funding measure, at a information convention Wednesday.
A coalition of state officers who work with kids agreed with Edwards.
“The consultants agree that individualized, trauma-informed care administered inside a remedy facility won’t solely assist youth extra successfully however will cut back recidivism charges and future prices,” mentioned Cassandra Sanchez, the state’s Baby Advocate.
Lawmakers haven’t determined the place to construct the brand new facility however have talked about Manchester, Harmony or Hampstead as prospects. In 2021, the state bought Hampstead Hospital with the purpose of reworking it right into a residential and psychiatric remedy hospital for youngsters and younger adults.
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