2007 Finalist
County of Luna, New Mexico
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
New Mexico

In 1997, in response to the increasing frequency and seriousness of juvenile crime, the Sixth Judicial District of New Mexico implemented the Juvenile Justice Continuum of Services and Graduated Sanctions. This comprehensive initiative includes both punitive and crime prevention components. Service offerings address the underlying health, social, and behavioral issues that often foreshadow juvenile delinquency. This initiative shifts the focus of the justice system from adjudication and incarceration to intervention and positive youth development.

On the preventative end of the continuum, the Juvenile Justice initiative offers after-school, athletic, and scholastic programs. All share the leadership of an adult who models healthy civic behaviors. Staff target programming for youth considered at-risk due to high poverty and unemployment rates, low levels of parental education, and family histories of mental health or substance abuse. Programs address such issues as substance abuse and teen pregnancy prevention seminars, high school graduation incentives, and adult literacy programs.

The initiative employs a range of responses to juvenile offenses. Staff may stage interventions, which include visits to the probation office, mandatory community service, and participation in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, in lieu of immediate incarceration. Failure to attend meetings or comply with regulations results in further restrictions including drug court, secure schooling, or court-ordered probation. The program reserves detention only for those who do not respond to intervention efforts.

The Juvenile Justice Program cites reduction in juvenile offenses and cost savings to the justice system as evidence of its successes. As of October 2006, total juvenile offenses declined by an average of 68 percent, with a related 58 percent decrease in the number of commitments to long-term detention facilities. Between 1997 and 2006, the Juvenile Justice Program saved the counties of Luna, Grant, and Hidalgo approximately $684,000 in law enforcement costs. So far, five locales across New Mexico have replicated this program: Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Roswell, and Farmington. The implementation of the continuum model has saved the State of New Mexico roughly $8,100,000 and $10,700,000 in respective adjudication and long-term juvenile commitment fees.

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