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CYFD Blues: Lawsuit Seeks Improved Safety and Treatment for Kids

November 21, 2007

Albuquerque, NM – It's a lesson in keeping promises. The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) is being sued for not following through on an agreement signed last year. It was designed to make sure youngsters who end up in the juvenile justice system are safe, and that they get the mental health services they need. Peter Simonson with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico says kids are being locked up unnecessarily.

"As a consequence, our juvenile detention facilities become like warehouses for troubled youth, instead of centers for actual rehabilitation."

Simonson says when mental health care is missing, juvenile detention centers too often become training grounds for lifelong criminals instead of opportunities to set kids on the right path. While parents never want their children to end up in a juvenile detention facility, Simonson says if it does happen, they want their kids to be safe. He believes this lawsuit will help make that guarantee.

"Kids are subject to violence and threats of violence on a daily basis. And sometimes that violence is perpetrated not just by other youth in the facility, but also by the staff themselves."

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Santa Fe District Court. The Youth Law Center of San Francisco is also part of the legal action. CYFD officials said they have not seen the lawsuit and have no comment.

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM