Home > Uncategorized > “Hanging” Incident in Nearby Community Calls for Restorative Justice… for Community as Well as Children

“Hanging” Incident in Nearby Community Calls for Restorative Justice… for Community as Well as Children

September 27, 2017

Claremont, New Hampshire, was at one time a thriving and bustling community. It was a regional shopping area and was the site of several precision mills that provided well-paying union jobs. But two things happened to Claremont that led to its decline in population and wealth: the interstate highway route went north of their community which eventually led to the withering of the shopping are in their downtown and corporations racing to the bottom for wages relocated the mills from their community to the South before moving them offshore.

When Claremont lost its tax base, it lost the means of funding schools and other community services. Unable to attain accreditation for its high school in the late 1980s because it could not raise funds to maintain the school building, the Claremont School Board sued the State because it had failed to fully fund a formula that assured equitable funding for all districts in the state. The school board won the lawsuit 20 years ago, but in the intervening years the governors and legislatures have not provided the funding mandated by the court order in 1993.

Near the end of the summer, Claremont made national news. A group of young, white teen age boys took a rope from a broken tire swing, placed it around the neck of an eight year old boy of mixed race, placed the younger boy on a picnic table, and pushed him off. He suffered neck injuries sufficiently serious to warrant a Medivac helicopter trip to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center roughly 20 miles north of the community. The incident was investigated by the Claremont Police Department. These are the facts everyone seems to agree with. The disputed facts are over the issue is the extent to which the white teen-agers taunted the eight-year old victim because of his race and the extent to which his race led to him having the rope placed around his neck. The Police Department’s response is also in question. The parent of the eight year old child were so frustrated with the response of the police they posted the picture of their child’s neck on social media to let the public know what transpired and to share their concern about the Police Departments seeming indifference to the incident.

Jim Kenyon, a local investigative reporter for the Valley News, wrote a column in today’s paper recommending that the young boys who placed the rope around the neck of the eight-year old be subject to restorative justice and not sent to court. He made the recommendation based on an interview he did with Heidi Beirich, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Montgomery, Ala., that grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In the article, Ms. Beirich states her opposition to treating the children who placed the rope around the eight-year-old’s neck like criminals, noting that “If the (children in question) weren’t white supremacists going in, they will be when they get out.” 

Mr. Kenyon notes that providing restorative justice for the children will be problematic because Sullivan County, where Claremont is located, does not offer that alternative. Why? Because they lack the funds to do so! Mr. Kenyon writes:

On July 1, Sullivan County shut down its youth court diversion program. A $55,000 state grant that had funded the program for the previous 15 months ran out.

After private funding couldn’t be found, Sullivan County officials were unwilling to devote taxpayer money — beyond a $20,000 contribution last year — to keep the program going.

The same legislature that neglected to provide sufficient funds for the state’s education formula has withdrawn funding for a court diversion program that could provide meaningful intervention. But Mr. Kenyon, noting the political realities of New Hampshire, concludes that instead of seeking some kind of comprehensive state level funding for restorative justice instead suggests that a neighboring county assume responsibility for the case.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Kenyon’s assertion that restorative justice is the best solution to this problem. But I also think the ultimate responsibility for the problems in Claremont lie in the State House and legislature that has consistently ignored court orders to provide equitable funding for schools and operated a provide juvenile justice program on a year-to-year system of grants. If you are a child in Claremont you can’t get the same kind of education as your neighbors nor can you get the same kind of justice as your neighbors. How can a child “live free” in a state where there is no equity in school funding and no equity in juvenile justice?


%d bloggers like this: