Updated: January 22, 2020 10:13 PM
Created: January 22, 2020 10:09 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Santa Fe County is considering shutting down their juvenile detention center because of a decrease in detention population.
State officials said fewer teens are incarcerated before they see a judge.
"Detention centers are not good places for kids. They are really built for kids who pose a true threat to public safety,” said Bernalillo County Youth Services Center Director, Craig Sparks. “So ensuring that we house only kids that are a true threat to public safety is really important. Because if you start mixing lower level offenders. Outcomes nationally for kids that go through detention—they aren't good."
Ten years ago there were over 4,000 teens who were detained in New Mexico in a year. Now that number is 1,500.
The Santa Fe County Manager plans to ask county commissioners about what to do with the facility. The county isn’t required to have a youth detention facility nor do most state counties.
There are currently six statewide detention centers. Chaves, Taos and McKinley counties recently shut down their juvenile detention centers.
“Detention populations for juveniles statewide decrease significantly over the last few years to the point where multiple facilities really didn't have enough kids in their facility to really justify the cost of keeping a detention center open,” Sparks said.
Santa Fe County is facing the same thing.
Officials say the average stay in detention facilities is less than three weeks. Last year, fewer than 150 juveniles were incarcerated in Santa Fe. While murder charges for teens are up, juvenile crime is down overall.
The county manager said the facility costs nearly $3 million a year to operate. They also face frequent staff turnovers and vacancies, a lack of guaranteed revenue and aging facilities.
Santa Fe officials have already spoken to county officials in San Juan and Bernalillo about housing their kids.
"Back in 2001, 2002, we had over 100 kids in this facility,” Sparks said. “So almost every cell was double bunked. There's been a big shift. Most of those kids are nonviolent offenders,” Sparks said.
Some experts say the biggest drawback from closing the facilities is the distance.
As more facilities close, transporting officers will have to drive greater distances, which can be costly. The extra distance can also be an extra burden on families and attorneys for visitations.
Santa Fe says if it closes the facilities it would save the county nearly $1.8 million dollars a year.
The meeting to decide is on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
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