The Bulletin Board

House agrees to Senate plan for closing Sununu Youth Services Center

By: - June 16, 2021 3:43 pm
Sign in front of the Sununu Youth Services Center

The Department of Health and Human Services has signed a $55,000 contract with Alvarez and Marsal Public Sector Services of Washington, D.C., to write a closure plan for the Sununu Youth Services Center. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The state Senate prevailed Wednesday in pushing back the House’s closing plan for the Sununu Youth Services Center, giving the state until March 1, 2023, to relocate residents or repurpose the center into a more suitable space for them.

The state will also get nearly $18 million more than the House had budgeted for the work.

State lawmakers from both parties, as well as juvenile advocates, have long wanted to close the center, believing a youth detention facility is the wrong place to hold and rehabilitate children. And they joined in opposing the governor’s budget request of $13 million a year for the approximately five to 10 juveniles there at any given time. 

But until a joint legislative committee finalized negotiations Wednesday, the House and Senate were divided over not only the closing date but also its new facility’s size and how much to budget. The House wanted about $2 million over one year, but agreed to the Senate’s nearly $20.4 million appropriation over two years.

If Gov. Chris Sununu passes a budget that retains Wednesday’s agreement, a committee of lawmakers, state officials, and youth advocacy groups will begin work this summer on a plan to close or repurpose the center. The new facility must be able to accommodate up to 18 youths and provide enough flexibility to separate residents by gender, treatment needs, and security risk. 

The committee must issue its recommendations by November and propose legislation for implementing them in time for the 2022 legislative session. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.