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Enhanced parental visitation center security supported in Senate bill

Union Leader State House Bureau
February 13. 2014 9:50PM

CONCORD — Under a bill approved by the Senate Thursday, a judge could limit a parental visit to a site with enhanced security if the child is potentially at risk.

Senate Bill 205 would allow a judge to order that parental visits take place at a visitation center with metal detectors and trained security staff on site.

The genesis of the bill was the murder of 9-year-old Joshua Savyon at the YWCA visitation center in Manchester last August. Joshua was shot and killed by his father, Muni Savyon, who then turned the gun on himself.

Muni Savyon was under a domestic violence protective order because he threatened to kill Joshua and the boy's mother, Becky Ranes.

The YWCA center had used a hand-held, metal-detection wand sporadically prior to the murder-suicide, but changed its policy after the incident.

According to Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, the bill allows a court to determine if a child could be at risk and order heightened security for a visitation with the noncustodial parent.

"It doesn't happen often," Soucy said, "but the well-being of the child is at issue."

The prime sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, called the bill a first step and noted a study commission established by the legislation will explore ways to increase safety for children who may be at risk.

"Under this bill, courts will have the authority to limit supervised visits to those facilities that have detection equipment and trained security personnel — that is an important first step," said Bradley. "Further, the legislation authorizes a commission of legislators, judicial and law enforcement personnel and victim advocates to take a comprehensive look at the state's supervised visitation centers in order to ensure these facilities are able to safely provide the services the state expects of them, and to offer suggestions for how we can improve the work being done at these centers."

There are only two visitation sites in New Hampshire that have both metal detectors and trained security personnel, and they are in Nashua and Boscawen. Soucy said the commission will look at ways to expand the number of visitation sites with enhanced security around the state, noting courts are logical sites for additional centers.The bill now goes to the House.

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