Thursday, March 23, 2023

Lawmakers approve $100M fund for youth center abuse victims

Concord, NH ( Associated Press) — A $100 million fund to settle sexual and physical abuse claims at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center is on the governor’s table.

The state Senate voted Thursday 14-10 in favor of creating a fund to compensate abusers as children at the Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly the Youth Development Center. Manchester center has been the target of criminal investigation since 2019, and last year 11 former activists were arrested, About 450 former residents have sued the state, including more than 150 employees. 1963 to 2018

Under the proposed settlement fund, victims of sexual abuse would be eligible for payments of up to $1.5 million each, while victims of physical abuse would have a limit of $150,000.

The Republican-led Senate rejected an amendment introduced by Democrats that would have raised those limits to $2 million and $200,000, respectively. Democrats also argued unsuccessfully in favor of expanding the definition of sexual abuse to include incidents such as forcing children to view child pornography or subjecting them to pornographic exposure.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfborough said, “Not knowing what we don’t know and how many of these there may be, I think it’s appropriate that we sit tight and wait before broadening our scope. ” “It’s not the end of the process. Let’s let the process work.”

The center is named after former government John H. Sununu, father of current government Chris Sununu, who has expressed support for the settlement bill. The state currently spends $13 million a year to operate the 144-bed facility, although the general population is now about a dozen teens.

The two-year budget signed in June included a mandate to close it by March 2023, but the House passed a bill on Wednesday giving the state time to build a new six-bed facility by June 30, 2024. Went. That bill now goes back to the Senate, which also approved an extension of the deadline but sought up to 18 beds.

The settlement fund law was opposed by lawyers for victims as well as state and national organizations that advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

“This bill is a political move to fool the public into thinking that the current political leadership really cares about children abused by the state,” lawyers Russ Riley and David Vicinanzo said in a statement. “The survivors of child abuse will not be deceived by this political theatre. Neither should the public.”

D-Manchester Senator Lo D’Alessandro said the bill was incomplete, inadequate and neither victim-centered nor trauma-informed.

“My vote today is on behalf of the victims who were horribly abused as children. I can’t fathom the pain and suffering they have gone through. It’s too much to not be right,” he said. “I will not support the bill, but I will support the children.”


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