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Child Advocate Investigating Sununu Youth Center Following Allegations Around Use Of Restraints

The state's new Child Advocate, Moira O'Neill, is launching an investigation into the Sununu Youth Center following allegations of a pattern of illegal use of restraints on juveniles there.

O'Neill is also raising questions about how state officials have responded since the allegations were made public earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the Disability Rights Center released a report alleging staff at the state-run Sununu Youth Center used excessive force when restraining a juvenile in December of 2016. The 14 year old boy suffered a fractured shoulder blade in the incident. In the report, the DRC says it has probable cause to believe that this was not an isolated event.

O’Neill says the report is very concerning and that her office is beginning its own investigation into the use of restraints at the Sununu Youth Center.

“We’ll be looking at who works there, what their credentials are, what their training has been, how often they’re trained and re-trained," said O'Neill. "We’ll be looking at videotape as well, to see what’s been going on there.”

O'Neill says a majority of children at the center suffer from either mental illness or were abused and that restraining them can be psychologically harmful.

In response to the report, Governor Chris Sununu said he takes the allegations very seriously and has asked the Attorney General and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate.

But O’Neill says both DHHS and the AG have known about the incident for some time. According to the report from the Disability Rights Center, the Division of Children, Youth and Families, which is under DHHS, completed an internal review of the incident in October of last year.

“So quite frankly, it’s interesting that we are saying we are waiting for the attorney general and the DCYF to investigate," said O'Neill, "because they already have. So I’d be curious to know what they’re now investigating again.”

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.

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