After fire, eyes turn to NH youth center
Boys stand by their beds in 1912 at Riverview Cottage in Manchester, on the site of what is now the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center. (FILE)
John H. Sununu Youth Services Center Director Penny Sampson holds a circa-1860s photo of staff and residents. James Keen Wilkins bequeathed the Manchester site to the state in 1855 with the stipulation that the property be used for a reform school. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
“We’re still in the process of evaluating it all,” Penny Sampson, director of the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center said. “We will listen to what the inspectors have to say and then make a determination of what (the state) will be able to do with it.”
“I was concerned. Any time something happens in a building that’s associated with this place, everyone should be concerned,” Sen. Sharon Carson said Sunday.
“This would be like a second set of eyes to oversee and assist. It’s going to get more people involved. If there are problems, they’re not going to fester. They’re going to be addressed.” Carson said she declined an invitation from Sampson — director of the facility for the last 18 months — to tour the center and speak personally. Carson did meet last month with DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas and was encouraged by the conversation.
The meeting was less than three years after William Fenniman’s resignation as director of the state Juvenile Justice Services Division and the Sununu Center in January 2011. A Disabilities Rights Center report filed in fall 2010 found a pattern of excessive force and use of dangerous restraints.
“There has just been a lot of controversy in this place. I don’t know why,” she said. “This is critical because we’re with at-risk children. This is a difficult issue and I don’t think there’s an easy answer.”
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