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The possibility that future hearings could be closed to the public has drawn sharp criticism from the victim advocacy community. Advocates said they fear further limitations on crime victims who may want to keep abreast of an offender’s release plans or respond to issues as they arise during a hearing.
“Meaningful input from crime victims should help guide the parole board’s decisions about the status of a convicted offender,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “The information victims provide can be critical when determining an offender’s potential risk to the victim and to the public.”
Grady Sexton said the fact that such a policy is even under consideration shows why amending the New Hampshire Constitution to include basic rights for crime victims is so important. A proposal to do just that was shot down by the House in late April after overwhelmingly passing the Senate weeks earlier.
“Victims deserve the same guarantee offenders get: that their rights will be recognized and upheld,” she said. “Without the protections of the Constitution, these types of policy changes will continue to occur, and protections for victims will continue to be rolled back.”