NM Emphasis On Teen Offender Rehab Provokes Debate


There have been violent flareups this year at New Mexico’s Youth Diagnostic Development Center in Albuquerque, now a catchall for both minor offenders and major problem children because of the shutdown of other state juvenile facilities, reports the Albuquerque Tribune. The closures are one facet of the state Children, Youth and Families Department’s new mission to refocus itself not on incarceration and punishment but on redemption and redirection. Critics raise concerns that the agency remains understaffed and unprepared–“a cauldron of killers and violent scofflaws who prey on the more innocent while biding their time until they are back on the streets, more dangerous than ever.”

Advocates of the new mission say change does not happen overnight. “We’re in the midst of a cultural change,” said Keith Smith, acting deputy director of state juvenile facilities since April. “We’re rebuilding an entire system right now.” Detractors say the push for rehabilitation has gone too far and been too soft. The idealistic notion that all children can be fixed, critics argue, is a dangerous one in an already overloaded system ill-equipped to handle both parole offender and psychopathic killer under an ever-shrinking roof. “Of course, it’s a case-by-case basis,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Todd Heisey in Bernalillo County, who for 16 years oversaw the prosecution of juveniles. “But sometimes there are those kids who just can’t be fixed.”

Link: http://www.abqtrib.com/news/2006/dec/06/new-mexico-changes-how-it-deals-young-violent-offe/

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