New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Helping to balance the scales of justice for everyone since 1971.

NHLA Statement on HB 49 Regarding the Sununu Youth Services Center

Posted Mar 23, 2023

Statement from Michelle Wangerin, Youth Law Project Director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance

New Hampshire has a long history of institutionalizing kids when their needs could be appropriately supported through a robust array of community-based services. Senate Bill 94 (2021) prioritized front end diversion of youth from the juvenile justice system and was a solid step in the right direction. Changing SYSC admissions criteria without simultaneously supporting and implementing effective community-based alternatives is a short-sighted solution that will result in diverting kids not to the community, but to low quality out-of-state facilities, far from their families and connections.

To ensure successful outcomes, the juvenile justice system must prioritize serving children at home, in their communities. If out-of-home placement is necessary, the system must help kids build and maintain close, consistent, and long-term connections that facilitate their successful return to their communities as quickly as possible. Successful transitions are next to impossible when children are residing in low quality, poorly staffed correction facilities or facilities hundreds of miles away from their families and communities. NHLA supports reducing youth incarceration through investment in effective community-based interventions and services. Anything less will do more harm than good to the state's most vulnerable children.