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Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention, Advocates Push for Reforms

11 Jan 2024, Jail News, by

Parents and advocates demand improvements at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center, urging for better living conditions.

Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention, Advocates Push for Reforms - Inmate Lookup

Concerned parents and advocates for those held at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center have called on county officials to upgrade the living conditions inside the facility.

The call for change came weeks after a disturbance at the jail that left it strewn with debris and caused minor injuries for some.

Over 30 individuals, including State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, gathered across the street from the Juvenile Detention Center on Tuesday to express their call for improved conditions. They also advocated for the youths involved in the disturbance to avoid facing charges.

Alicia Padilla, a parent of one of the inmates, expressed her support for those standing up, stating, “Enough is enough.”

The call for change follows a Christmas Day incident at around 3:30 p.m., where 13 youths, aged between 13 and 18, caused a disturbance in their pod at the facility. Sheriff John Allen reported three minor injuries resulting from the incident.

According to the sheriff, during the disturbance, crisis negotiators engaged with the incarcerated teens, negotiating requests that included items like chicken wings, with the teens treating the situation as if it were a movie.

Padilla expressed her concern over Allen apparently downplaying the youths’ request for chicken wings. She stressed that the kids were truly hungry and emphasized that their request for food was not intended as a joke.

The list of requested improvements includes enhanced bathroom access, clean laundry facilities, and an end to strip searches. Commissioner Barboa acknowledged that while the facility faces staffing challenges, it is not an excuse for the persisting issues.

SouthWest Organizing Project member Xiuy Soto expressed concern about the inmates’ civil rights and their treatment by Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center staff. Soto called for an investigation into how Bernalillo County handled the Christmas Day incident.

Meanwhile, Lalita Mosowitz, litigation manager at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, proposed alternative options to incarceration for juveniles, such as a pre-prosecution diversion program.

On Tuesday, from his office, Sheriff Allen stated that he wouldn’t tiptoe around what needed to be done. He emphasized the recognition that there are juveniles in the facility seeking rehabilitation for lesser crimes, but also pointed out that there are children who allegedly took someone else’s life. Allen asserted the need for a different approach in such cases.

Sheriff Allen assured that both he and the county would address the concerns raised, while the investigation into the Christmas Day incident remains ongoing.