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July 30. 2014 7:39PM

Bill sponsor critical of Hassan for vetoing Sununu center legislation

The sponsor of legislation that would revamp the Sununu Youth Services Center said Gov. Maggie Hassan was operating under a misconception when she vetoed the bill over fears it would tilt the center toward incarceration over rehabilitation.

New Hampshire Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, stressed the bipartisan legislation would have addressed numerous complaints she and other lawmakers have received from the staff who work at the Sununu Center, the former YDC facility that is located in Manchester.

“When you’re dealing with kids at the Sununu Center, you’re really balancing on a knife’s edge. You cannot forget the fact these kids are incarcerated,” Carson said.

The veto is Hassan’s fourth this session.

Earlier this week, Hassan announced her veto of Senate Bill 391. The legislation would have created a division-level director of juvenile justice and reinstituted an advisory board to oversee the Sununu Center.

The Democratic governor said she disagreed with the creation of the new position. She feared the Sununu Center and its treatment programs would be isolated from state services available to children and youth.

“Such a fundamental shift in policy comes with a high cost to both children and taxpayers and would take New Hampshire in the wrong direction,” Hassan wrote. She emphasized that most of the 1,400 children in the juvenile justice system are placed in their communities; only 60 are incarcerated in Manchester.

Carson said the New Hampshire House insisted on the new division-level director, and the Executive Council would have a say on who filled the job.

Hassan said she supports a reworking of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, and she will work to do so through executive order.

She noted that 17-year-olds will soon be returning to the juvenile justice system, and the state Department of Health and Human Services will have an independent organization with national expertise review the Sununu Center and the state’s juvenile justice program.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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