Legal gun owners are having their Second Amendment rights trampled on once again because progressive programs that embraced social justice, racial healing, and equity have failed, and a democrat governor will not admit it.
At a time and place where legally owning and carrying a gun is almost a necessity for safety and individual protection, the Second Amendment is intentionally ignored by New Mexico Governor Grisham. Although she said she was sure what she was doing was constitutional, she was far from it. Again, the law-abiding citizens of New Mexico have had to fight for their constitutional rights because soft social programs have created huge gaps for the miscreants and malefactors not only to exist but thrive.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Executive Order 2023-130, “Declaring State of Public Health Emergency Due to Gun Violence,” and 2023-132 “Declaring State of Public Health Emergency Due to Drug Abuse” prompted Patrick Allen, Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health to publish September 8, 2023, (and amended September 15, 2023) “Public Health Emergency Order Imposing Temporary Firearm Restrictions, Drug Monitoring and Other Public Safety Measures.”
Could it be that Democratic Governor Grisham has made the two declarations for another reason? Hidden under the unconstitutional firearms restrictions and declaration of increased drug abuse deaths in Allen’s Public Health Emergency Order was the stipulation that “The Children, Youth, and Families Department shall immediately suspend the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative [JDAI] and evaluate juvenile probation protocols.” How are guns, drugs, and juveniles connected? None of the three documents make that clear, but it is not difficult to connect the dots.
What is JDASI?
The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JSAI) is the brainchild of Marty Schwartz, the first executive director of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization established in 1948 by Jim Casey, a United Parcel Services (UPS) founder. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has long been funding reform in the juvenile justice systems across the United States through community change, economic opportunities, equity and inclusion, evidence-based practices, and leadership development.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation began supporting underprivileged youth camps in Seattle in 1948. It supported child welfare and foster care services in the northeast United States from 1976 through 2012. They boast, “We continue to use data and evidence as a way to of bringing communities together on behave of children and families.”
JDAI’s focus is reforming the juvenile justice system to limit juvenile detention by providing diversion services and informal handling of juvenile referrals at the system’s front end. Juvenile offenders avoid the justice system by intervening through diversion before formal processing or informally handling juvenile probation referrals.
And the Juvenile Justice System can avoid the high cost of housing juveniles in detention centers.
New Mexico adopts JDAI and The Annie E. Casey Foundation Philosophy
Since New Mexico adopted the JDAI in 1999 in Bernalillo County, Juvenile Probation Office referrals have declined, the number of juveniles booked has declined, and the number of juveniles held in detention has declined. Crime has not declined.
In 2012, Bernalillo County, which includes the city of Albuquerque, joined five other sites in a pilot program for the dispositional part of the juvenile detention system, with a focus on reforming the correctional part or deep-end, called “Leading with Race to Reimagine Youth Justice: A Deep-End Initiative.” The premise is that juveniles benefit from not being incarcerated, and most incarcerated in the United States are of color.
The Bernalillo County Juvenile Justice Collaborative stated, “In partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, several communities across the U.S., including Bernalillo County, have undertaken deep-end juvenile out-of-home placement, especially for youth of color.”
In 2021, Annie E. Casey’s Foundation announced the Bernalillo County Children’s, Youth and Families Department’s intention to expand the Initiative’s implementation, including 20 community-based organizations in The Albuquerque Justice for Youth Community Collaborative. Albino Garcia, the executive director of La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque and founder of the Collaborative, stated, “Progress toward social justice, racial healing, and equity requires a radical change, grounded in community leadership and respect for the perspective of the young people and families who have been directly -and often negatively- affected the juvenile justice system.”
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is funding the Institute and Collaborative, providing stipends to participating families and subgrants to participating organizations. The Collaboration stated, “’[Our] work is both healing and creative — holding public systems accountable for harm they inflict on communities, holding each other accountable for our complicity in that harm, and continuing to develop culturally-grounded and community-based supports and opportunities, especially for young people of color. We come together to build a collective partnership and work toward a new, community-defined vision of youth justice for generations to come.’”
New Mexico’s Juvenile Justice System tracked the impact of the program from 2014 through 2020 in Bernalillo County, noting the significant decrease in referrals from law enforcement, down 69%; felony filings, down 58%; total placements, down 57%; probation disposition, down 74%; commitments to state custody, down 54%; and average daily detention population, down 34%. The Initiative lowered the number of juveniles in the system at each step in the process.
According to the Collaborative, total law enforcement referrals to probation decreased by 69% from 3595 in 2014 to 1122 in 2020.
The statistics for 2020 show 22% or 246 juvenile cases were handled informally, 33% or 379 cases were diverted from formal intake or processing, and 12% or 135 cases had consent decrees.
Of the 497 referrals sent for disposition, 187 cases received probation, 35 were committed to state custody, and 68 were out-of-home placements.
Although referrals to probation, felony filings, and probation dispositions remain low, total out-of-home placements and commitments have increased from 14 in 2019 to 35 in 2020.
The majority of referrals handled informally were for Latinx/Hispanic juveniles. And 77% of technical probation violations were for Latinx/Hispanic juveniles. White juveniles’ referrals were diverted more often than youth of color. A higher percentage of female referrals were diverted compared to males. More male juveniles received probation than female juveniles. Of the 35 committed juveniles, 33 were male.
Of the 35 juvenile delinquents committed to state custody in 2020, five were for Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon, seven for Armed Robbery, three for Battery of a Peace Officer, one for Larceny (Over $2500.), one for Murder, one for Rec/Trans Stolen Motor Vehicle, one for Robbery, one for Shooting at/From Motor Vehicle, one for Trafficking, and two for Unlawful Possession of Handgun. (Bernalillo County Juvenile Justice Collaborative, “2021 Deep End Performance Measures”).
Why would the Department of Health include the suspension of JDAI in a declaration with guns and drugs?
In Governor Grisham’s 2023-130 declaration, she cited three shootings that occurred in the past two months in Albuquerque: the July 28th shooting of a 13-year-old girl by a 14-year-old boy, the August 14th drive-by shooting of a 5-year-old girl, and the September 6th possible road rage shooting of an 11-year-old boy passenger and 24- year- old female driver. She also referred to two mass shootings that occurred within the past year.
Then again, just over a year ago, in September 2022, the FBI wrapped up a seven-year sting that focused on two gangs, according to KOB4, a local news source.
The FBI seized illegal guns, more than 200 pounds of fentanyl pills, 140 pounds of methamphetamines, and millions of dollars in cash. The FBI reported arresting hundreds of gang members during the seven-year sting that used 22 confidential informants.
Only months later, more guns, illegal drugs, and cash were seized from the same gangs.
Federal prosecutors stated there were hundreds of gangs in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque is safer than 1% of the other United States neighborhoods. In 2018, there were 7,854 violent crimes and 24,625 property crimes reported. Residents had a one in 72 chance of being a victim of a violent crime. Albuquerque had 120 murders, 500 rapes, 1,689 robberies, 5,545 assaults reported in 2018. They had 171 crimes per square mile. That is a crime rate of 57.73 per 1,000 residents.
Albuquerque has over 100 diverse neighborhoods. Still, 16.2% of individuals live below the poverty level; the median household income is $ 13,000 below the national average, and 49.8% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to Neighborhood Scout’s 2018 data.
The School Report for 2018 states that the Albuquerque district has 69.5% economically disadvantaged students and 68.2% students eligible for free lunches.
Remember, JDAI has sent more than 50% of juvenile delinquents before entering the justice system, home, and back into the gang-filled communities for support and services.
Based on the statistics available, it is easy to understand why a governor who has declared a health emergency for the Albuquerque community would include the suspension of a juvenile justice program that encourages the Children, Youth, and Families Department to return juveniles to their homes and communities that have a high rate of poverty, crime, and gang activity.
New Mexico and Bernalillo County have been fully committed to a program for more than 20 years that has not processed the majority of juvenile offenders and rehabilitated them but instead released them back into homes and communities from which they came.
The statistics provide evidence that the Initiative was impactful. Not necessarily successful. Although juvenile incarcerations may be down overall, statistics do not show crime is down. In fact, firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in New Mexico, and according to the Pew Research Center, the number of gun deaths has increased by 50% from 2019 to 2020.
They have succeeded if the Foundation’s goals are to reduce juvenile commitment to state custody. However, data does not show success if the Foundation’s goals are to achieve equity and inclusion. Further, there is no evidence of success If the Foundation’s goals are to empower community leaders to support and provide services to juveniles so they make better choices and integrate into society. If the Foundation’s goals are to decrease crime, they have failed severely.
In context, it seems only logical that the JDAI was suspended in the Public Emergency Health Order because it has not successfully added to a healthy and safe community in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Not just New Mexico
Rather, in 2019, more than 300 jurisdictions in 40 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to JDAI. Numerous other jurisdictions and states have reformed with the same philosophy under different names, such as the Sentencing Project.
Cortney Sander’s article “State Juvenile Justice Reforms Can Boost Opportunity, Particularly for Communities of Color,” published by The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities in 2021, echoes The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s philosophy: “Reducing incarceration for children and young adults and investing in community-based solutions and other investments in the communities most harmed by the justice system would help right historical wrongs, reduce inequities, and foster more widespread opportunity.” She believes the juvenile justice system “Disproportionately harms communities of color” and “Exacerbates disparities for LGBTQ youth.” She is not the only one touting the importance of juvenile justice reform as social justice.
Stephanie Ueberall and Amelia Vorpahl of The Council of State Governments stated, “Racial inequities regarding the policing of children, and the subsequent disparities in their treatment within the juvenile justice system, have been problems in this country for far too long. It is encouraging that many states and counties are not only recognizing these issues but are taking action.” (“Building a More Equitable Juvenile Justice System for Everyone.” 2022).
There is funding in the hundreds of millions of dollars through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, with numerous organizations beyond the Collaborative across the country focused on reforming the juvenile justice system to right the wrongs throughout history and correct social injustices.
Why Governor Grisham has chosen now to act is for the political analysts to figure out. There is no doubt that she knew that the gangs, illegal guns, and drugs had taken over Albuquerque for decades.
The Public Health Order seeks additional federal and local law enforcement, needed for adults and juveniles, to achieve the safety and well-being of the community. Maybe instead of Governor Grisham stepping on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, she should have called on them to gather as “a well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State,” to return Albuquerque to the law-abiding citizens.
About Debra Dahrouge:
Debra Dahrouge was an educator for 25 years, with degrees from Georgian Court University and Monmouth University. She retired to Wyoming to enjoy reading, researching, and family days on the gun range.