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CYFD Defends Decision to Close Camino Nuevo Jail

By Katie Burford
Journal Staff Writer
    The Children, Youth and Families Department announced in October that it was closing Camino Nuevo, a youth jail that opened five years ago to house the most violent juvenile criminals.
    The move is part of a general effort to have fewer juveniles locked up and more supervised in their communities. Inmates from Camino Nuevo will be moved to the adjacent Youth Diagnostic and Development Center.
    The closure has drawn criticism from law enforcement and juvenile corrections employees who see the lock-up as necessary.
    This week, Art Murphy, head of Juvenile Justice Services for CYFD, stood by the closure and the department's goals.
    "Back in the '90s, there was this concept or belief that the nation was going to be racked by super-predators" and more maximum-security lock-ups would be needed, Murphy said. But the onslaught of hard core juvenile criminals "never happened," he said.
    "What we don't want is to place kids in a facility simply because we don't have the resources in the community ... or we just want them out of the way," he said.
    Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White has been a vocal opponent of closing Camino Nuevo.
    "It should be used for what it was designed for and that's housing our state's most violent juvenile predators," he said.
    He said juvenile violent crime is more widespread than CYFD is acknowledging.
    "Out here in the real world and away from the offices of Santa Fe, this is not a pleasant environment. We still see an incredible amount of juvenile violence," he said.
    Albuquerque Police Chief Gil Gallegos said a facility for violent kids is a good idea. He added that the alternative youth center is "going to have to do something to really beef up security."
    Murphy said new fencing and other upgrades are being made to accommodate high-risk inmates at the youth center, he said.
    Roger Stansbury, president of the union for corrections officers at the youth lock-up, said security still isn't being adequately addressed.
    "The administration's on a timetable they're bound and determined to keep no matter who suffers," he said.
    Murphy said Camino Nuevo will be closed on July 1.