Employee raises concerns about conditions at Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chaos inside the Bernalillo County’s Juvenile Detention Center on Christmas has raised questions and concerns.
13 teens reportedly locked themselves in one pod and actively negotiated with law enforcement for hours. Now, staffing, protocols, and conditions at the detention center are in the spotlight.
Officer staffing is below 50%. One current employee, who wanted to stay anonymous, told KOB that 10 employees have left the center since November – that includes two employees who specifically cited unsafe conditions.
The employee says staff has been warning about the potential for a riot, injuries, or death for months now, but says their concerns have gone unanswered.
Bernalillo County officials confirmed there are 45 guards at the center. If they were fully staffed, there would be 98 guards.
Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen shared more information this week about the “major disturbance” inside the pod. He included several points he’ll be working on with other county leadership.
“There’s a lot of protocol, there’s a lot of things that need to be changed,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of things that lawmakers need to look at as far as the juvenile code. And there are a lot of things that we’re working together in conjunction with the county and the county manager and JDC staff and directors to make sure that this doesn’t occur again.”
Allen revealed JDC leadership is asking for reinforcement of windows and doors, and a remodel of the intake and medical area.
“We house a lot of violent offenders from all over the state, specifically from Valencia, Sandoval and Bernalillo County. When you have restraint devices that can’t be utilized correctly for how you restrain a juvenile, the right protocol, the right training, you’re not only going to you’re going to have personnel that gets hurt,” Allen said. “That’s when we start seeing an escalation of force.”
However, Allen says this incident didn’t rise to the level of a riot because the group didn’t have control over any personnel, or the entire center.
“We know mistakes were made,” Allen said. “We’re all human. But those are mistakes we can’t have again. We need to correct those immediately. So that’s what we’re doing.”
The employee who spoke with KOB is hoping for the same thing, saying strong programming and a full staff could make it a worthwhile place to work.
The employee also told KOB the detention center went into a state of emergency after the disturbance, which means staff can work more than 16 hours at one time.
Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca shared the following statement:
We are actively addressing staffing shortages and making any and all improvements to the facility to rectify any and all critical issues to ensure the safety, security and well-being of the residents and staff at the YSC. We will continue to do whatever it takes to improve the facility and operations.