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New Hampshire Home passes invoice to interchange embattled youth detention middle

The New Hampshire Home rejected a measure aimed toward sending fewer youngsters to the state’s troubled youth detention middle Thursday after baby advocates argued it will 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 12 months whereas sometimes housing fewer than a dozen teenagers day by day. Debate about closing the middle started years in the past, however got here to a boil amid horrific sexual abuse allegations stretching again many years.

After failing to satisfy their very own March 2023 deadline to close it down, lawmakers lately allotted cash to pick a web site for a brand new, a lot smaller facility however the stopgap measure left many particulars unresolved.


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 doable coming from federal COVID-19 aid support. The invoice, which now goes to the state Senate, additionally begins outlining scientific and security pointers for the brand new facility, together with a deal with therapeutic and trauma-informed care of kids.

Whereas there’s broad settlement on such an strategy, some lawmakers stated the invoice falls brief. Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Democrat from Durham, stated it would replicate the identical mismanagement and hurt to juveniles in its care.

“There’s nothing that claims we gained’t be doing the identical issues we’ve been doing for years and failing — the identical issues that precipitated greater than 1,000 youngsters to allege bodily and sexual abuse,” she stated.

Smith supported a failed modification to the invoice that might have required future leaders of the middle to be specialists in serving to youngsters with particular wants, not corrections officers. It additionally would have prevented youngsters from being despatched to the ability if they’d fewer than three prior convictions for low-level crimes. Supporters stated that might stop pointless incarceration of youth, however opponents stated it will have unintended penalties.

Underneath present legislation, officers typically briefly detain youngsters who commit low-level crimes to take away them from harmful houses whereas they prepare a spot for them to remain, akin to a foster house. Baby advocates opposed the modification to require three prior convictions, arguing that it will incentivize legislation enforcement to convey extra prices in order that they might acquire a short detention.


“If you happen to make it more durable to place any person on this new trauma-informed, therapeutic middle, what’s going to occur is you’re encouraging legislation enforcement and judges to escalate prices,” stated Republican Rep. Jess Edwards, of Auburn, sponsor of the funding measure, at a information convention Wednesday.

A coalition of state officers who work with youngsters agreed with Edwards.

“The specialists agree that individualized, trauma-informed care administered inside a therapy facility is not going to solely help youth extra successfully however will scale back recidivism charges and future prices,” stated 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 potentialities. In 2021, the state bought Hampstead Hospital with the purpose of remodeling it right into a residential and psychiatric therapy hospital for youngsters and younger adults.

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