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N.M. juvenile detention center doubles staff, boosts holding capacity

The Bernalillo County juvenile detention center filled 41 corrections officer positions, increasing the total to 66 COs, allowing the facility to reopen a previously closed pod

Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention and Youth Services Center

Bernalillo County

By Matthew Reisen
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

BERNALILLO, N.M. — The Bernalillo County juvenile jail has more than doubled its staff and added a dozen beds after local law enforcement leaders expressed concerns about the facility’s safety and holding capacity.

Melissa Smith, a Bernalillo County spokeswoman, said the Juvenile Detention and Youth Services Center in the North Valley is using a previously shuttered pod to house 12 more juveniles.

She said the pod was not being used due to staffing shortages and will house juveniles who are brought in and have yet to see a judge.

Smith said they were able to re-staff the pod after filling 41 positions, for a current total of 66 corrections officers, over the past several months. She said 32 officer positions remain vacant as the county recently added another 10 positions.

Smith said the county is having a rapid-hire event June 8 to try to lessen the remaining vacancies.

The new juvenile capacity and staffing levels came after several tumultuous months for the facility, which had an incident on Christmas Day in which juveniles took over an area of the facility, causing damage and minor injuries.

Smith said at that time that they had 25 staff members — with more than 70 vacancies.

The incident led Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen to question if the facility is equipped to safely handle the population. District Attorney Sam Bregman jumped into the issue recently when a West Mesa student was not accepted into the facility for allegedly having a gun in class.

Allen and Bregman penned a letter to county officials last week alleging the facility refused to book the 16-year-old boy, who was charged with unlawful carry and possession of a firearm on school grounds. The pair said the facility’s booking process was unclear and lacked urgency.

In response, county officials said they would have accepted the teen once he was medically cleared, and that Albuquerque Public Schools police released the boy to his parents rather than getting clearance to book him.

On Thursday, both Allen and Bregman released statements that the additional staff and beds to house juveniles was a positive development — with more work to be done.

“We appreciate the swift action taken in response to our concerns, particularly about the capacity issues,” Allen said. “This expansion, along with the significant increase in staff members, is a step in the right direction.”

Allen said, in the statement, that the changes address “one of our main concerns regarding the refusal to immediately hold some juveniles.”

“This is just the beginning of broader improvements that are part of the ongoing efforts between law enforcement and the county,” he said.

Bregman thanked county officials for listening to his and Allen’s concerns.

“Our top priority is the safety of the community,” he said in a statement. “We usually see an increase in juvenile crime during the summer months, and we hope this effort by the county will help keep dangerous juveniles off the streets.”

Bregman said more personnel and holding capacity “go a long way to addressing our short-term concerns,” adding that “all parties must continue working on long-term solutions.”


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