Families and formerly incarcerated young people seeks change after Christmas Day protest
On Christmas Day, young people in the state’s largest youth detention center protested conditions for five hours, and three were later treated for injuries.
Now, formerly incarcerated young people and families of kids who are currently detained are giving the county a list of demands for changes.
Alicia Padilla’s son is currently detained at the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center, and she said he and the other children here weren’t allowed outside for six months straight.
“Our children were a pale, grayish color,” she said. “That alone is inhumane.”
She said there are long delays in their correspondence, and the center cancels about three quarters of her visits with her son due to low staffing. That led her to join other families and formerly incarcerated young people outside the facility on Tuesday to call for change.
They were joined by several organizations, including the ACLU of New Mexico and La Plazita Institute.
Xiuy Soto with the Southwest Organizing Project and other organizers have spoken to families of young people in the detention center. He said they are still piecing together what happened on Christmas, but have heard through families that the young people say they were left alone, possibly with handcuffs and a phone.
“It's Christmas Day. They're not able to see their families, talk to their families, eat their food, use the bathroom,” Soto said of the protest.
The group is demanding that the children who took part in the protest face no new charges because of it and they want an independent investigation of the center’s conditions. They are also asking for more access to healthy food, bathrooms, water and other personal hygiene supplies. And they’d like to see more consistent schooling, programming and access to books.
That’s in addition to an end to strip searches and prolonged confinement.
State Senator Linda Lopez and County Commissioner Adriann Barboa both spoke and promised to address these issues.
“It is true that we’ve been understaffed for a long time, and that is not an excuse for these intolerable conditions,” Barboa said.
A spokesperson for the county would not comment on specific allegations, but said there is an investigation in process into the Christmas protest.
The investigation into the incident is still in progress; however, over the past few weeks, County Manager Julie Morgas Baca has spent a lot of time at the Youth Services Center to see first-hand which operational protocols need to be changed or adjusted. [...] The county manager is working on a formal plan to address the concerns. Details will be shared with the community.
This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.