Frustrated former residents of NH youth center push for federal investigation
|Published: 08-25-2023 8:50 AM
Frustrated former residents of New Hampshire’s only youth detention center are pushing for a federal investigation into allegations of decades of abuse.
The Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, previously called the Youth Development Center, has been under criminal investigation by the state since 2019. Ten former workers and an 11th who worked at a pretrial facility in Concord were arrested in 2021.
Close to 1,000 men and women have sued the state alleging physical, sexual or emotional abuse. But the slow pace of the criminal and civil proceedings has some calling for the federal Department of Justice to step in.
“Get the state out of it, because they’re not looking to give us real justice,” said Charles Glenn, who spent several years at the facility in the mid-1990s. “They’re complicit to sexual physical violence in this institution for over 40 years because for over 40 years, they’ve done nothing.”
Glenn, 42, helped organize a rally planned for Friday afternoon in Concord where half a dozen former residents are scheduled to speak. He won’t be there because he is serving a 40-year-to-life sentence for second-degree murder, but his wife will speak on his behalf.
In his lawsuit, Glenn alleges he was raped by three workers at the youth center and beaten by a dozen more, suffering multiple broken bones.
Glenn said in a phone interview that the abuse started within a week of his arrival, when he came out of his room one night after having a nightmare and was dragged back in, put in restraints and beaten.
“I kept screaming and crying, and I was scared to be in there, and they wrapped a towel around my face to muffle the screams,” he said.
The abuse escalated when he was moved to another housing unit, Glenn said.
“We were combative verbally, and they wanted to demasculate us and humiliate us and do something that would break us,” he said.
Neither state nor federal officials responded to requests for comment Thursday, but the U.S. Department of Justice has investigated similar facilities in other states.
The agency reached a settlement in 2022 with the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice after finding state officials were violating the rights of incarcerated youths by failing to protect them from fights, forcing them to spend days or weeks in isolation for minor offenses and failing to provide mental health treatment when they threaten to harm or kill themselves.
In 2021, federal investigators said isolation practices and lack of mental health services at a Connecticut facility were seriously harming children.
The Justice Department also is examining whether children in five Texas youth detention facilities have been protected from physical and sexual abuse by other residents and subjected to excessive use of sedation drugs and isolation.
The New Hampshire youth center, which once housed upward of 100 children but now typically serves fewer than a dozen, is named for former Gov. John H. Sununu, father of current Gov. Chris Sununu. Lawmakers have approved closing the facility and replacing it with a much smaller operation, likely in a new location.