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Sununu Youth Center Makes List of "Large and Expensive" Prisons

The Sununu Youth Center is one of 80 prisons nationwide that a new national campaign called Youth First says should be shut down. (Google Earth)
The Sununu Youth Center is one of 80 prisons nationwide that a new national campaign called Youth First says should be shut down. (Google Earth)
March 14, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. - A group of youth advocates are calling for the Sununu Youth Center in Manchester to be shut down.

"Youth First" is a new national campaign calling for the closure of 80 of the nation's oldest and largest youth prisons. Sununu Center is on the list because of its size. Liz Ryan, president and chief executive of Youth First, said the facility was designed to hold 144 young offenders but currently is holding only a fraction of that capacity.

"You only have 40 kids in that facility in New Hampshire," she said. "It begs the question of whether or not that facility is the best place to put children. You're only using a third of the facility, but you are still really paying to run the whole thing."

Ryan urged state decision makers to take a look at community-based alternatives, which she said not only produce better outcomes for the young offenders but also are more cost effective.

Another major issue is who ends up being incarcerated at Sununu. Ryan said black youths are being held way out of proportion to their number in the Granite State's population.

"The percent of African-American youth in the general youth population is about 2 percent," she said. "Then, when you look at the incarcerated population, it's about 36 percent, so that's a very stark disparity in terms of who is incarcerated in New Hampshire."

Ryan said young people being held in these very large facilities are basically being "warehoused," and that it simply is an obsolete approach.

"The youth in those facilities experience very high recidivism rates," she said, "and they are much more likely, substantially more likely, than youth who are in the community to be placed in the adult criminal-justice system."

Her group just released a new poll that found that about 77 percent of Americans favor changing the focus of the juvenile-justice system from incarceration to rehabilitation. The Youth First report is online at

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH