Parents, advocates speak out against inhumane conditions at Juvenile Detention Center
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Apparently a laundry list of issues led up to the Christmas Day chaos at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center. Advocates and families of incarcerated teens say it’s only been getting worse for years.
They shared more about the realities they’ve been dealing with and laid out a list of demands for the county Tuesday.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to our children’s cry for help. Regardless of their circumstances, children should be treated with dignity,” said Vanessa Hulliger.
Hulliger started an organization called Stronger Together, Never Alone as a support group for parents of incarcerated youth. Her son spent years at the county center, and she describes the conditions as deplorable.
“Dirty laundry, smelling of urine and mildew adds to the indignity of our children’s fates,” Hulligersaid. “Reports of physical and mental abuse from staff are distressing and unacceptable. Meals are often served hours late, leaving children hungry and uncertain of when their next nourishment will be.”
She and other advocates say teens are confined for sometimes 23 hours a day with limited access to water and basic necessities like a toilet. School and family visits are often canceled, and they haven’t had access to programming since the governor suspended it under the current public health order.
“I am tired of seeing youth being locked away,” said Alexis Pina, who was formerly incarcerated at YSC. “I have seen kids who are 11 years old come into the facility being strip searched.”
Pina experienced the issues for three years.
“I wanted to commit suicide because I was tired of the conditions, I was tired of staff making me feel like I wasn’t important, that I didn’t matter,” Pina said.
The group has nine demands for Bernalillo County to address the inhumane conditions. They include access to bathrooms, clean laundry, and school programs. They’re also demanding to end the use of strip searches, solitary confinement, and holding girls in the intake area with no privacy or windows.
“We call on law enforcement and elected officials to accept the same accountability they’re demanding from these teenagers from these kids from these youth,” said Xiuy Soto, an organizer with SWOP.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa and state Sen. Linda Lopez were also there to share concerns.
“This is the place where the adults are responsible for providing the care that we have been given taxpayer dollars to do so,” Barboa said. “This is not a time for us to point towards youth as the problem.”
Advocates will be standing by for action.
“We will continue to be the voice our children so desperately need,” Hulliger said.
Another county representative says the county manager plans to share a broader idea for improvements with the public soon. Another item on the list of demands is no new charges related to the Christmas Day protest – KOB 4 is still waiting to hear on the status of the 13 teens involved.