Sunday, February 26, 2017

Branigan Library Computer Classes

Pass the word. Computer tech skills are necessary in today's digital world of job application submissions, school registrations, online ed, research, knowledge building, and access to information.  It's never too late. Utilize this opportunity to help build your resume or profile in your search for whatever you're looking for that means something to you in this life. Tighten up your game, do it for your yourself, your dreams, and your health...especially mental. Utilize the library as your school of thought especially if money is a barrier to access a college education. There are ways to create our own opportunities to knowledge. Never let access get old, especially when the resources are free. Branigan Library has been providing free computer classes since the beginning of the year and I anticipate more opportunities will be available in the future. @vbwclass

Branigan Library offers free computer classes in March
Article: click here

Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, 201 E. Picacho Ave., will offer free computer literacy classes in the library’s second floor computer training lab during the month of March.

Registration is not required, however, only the first 9 attendees will be guaranteed a computer. Attendees are welcome to bring their own laptops if space permits.

Introduction to Computers: The Basics – 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 7: This class for the absolute beginner will introduce students to the parts of the computer and mouse skills. Students will learn the components of Windows-based programs.

Windows 10 – 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 14: This class will describe the new features of Windows 10 and how to navigate the new operating system. Topics include the new start menu, Cortana and how to customize the desktop.

Introduction to Computers: File Management – 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 21: A basic class where students will learn how to manage files by saving, attaching and storing information.

Introduction to the Internet – 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, March 28: A class for those who want to learn how to go online and move around the internet with ease. Students will learn how to access websites, how to navigate, what web addresses are, basic searching skills, and internet safety.

Information: 575/528-4005 or Anyone who will require accommodation for a disability to attend this event, please notify the library 48 hours in advance at 528-4005.

#tweetcite @CrucesSunNews "Branigan Library Offers Free Computer Classes in March" @BraniganTweets

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Incarcerated Youths in NM ‘off the chart’ for Early Trauma

NM youths ‘off the chart’ for early trauma
By Donna Olmstead / Journal Staff Writer
Sunday, May 1st, 2016 at 12:05am

The history of many young New Mexicans who ended up in juvenile detention shows a brutal betrayal of their innocence and youth.

According to a recent groundbreaking study, the amount of trauma some of these New Mexico juvenile offenders experienced – when compared to their peers across the country – was “off the charts.”

Many were victims of neglect, abandonment, beatings or rape, and were exposed to family violence, mental illness, drug abuse and more.

They had patterns of early childhood abuse and neglect that was seven times higher than similar teens in other national studies.

While the results are grim, the study’s authors – experts from different agencies and fields – say they believe it can be a launch pad for greater interagency and professional collaboration, as well as for growing resources and sharing them.

“Our real hope is that we can use it in a way to get involved with the whole family, the little brothers and little sisters,” says Dr. George Davis, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the state Department of Children, Youth and Family Services Juvenile Justice System. “Delinquency, substance abuse and family violence are public health menaces of the first rank.”

The study published in February for the New Mexico Sentencing Commission evaluated 220 juvenile offenders incarcerated in 2011 and their exposure to traumatic events earlier in their lives.

“The study was intended to better establish the association between early childhood and delinquency,” the authors write, “as well as to explore the role that law and medicine can play in ensuring better juvenile justice outcomes.”

Of those 13- to 18-year-olds incarcerated, 190 were boys and 30 were girls. Physical neglect affected 100 percent of the boys and 93 percent of girls.

One in five boys reported sexual abuse, and about half reported physical violence. For the girls, more than two-thirds reported sexual abuse and almost three out of four reported physical violence.

The study uses nine childhood events that have proven to have long-term effects as its measure. Of the boys, nearly 75 percent were exposed to five or more of the adverse childhood events, while over 86 percent of the girls reported five or more of the traumatic events.

Yael Zakia Cannon, a study author and law professor, says comparable studies in other states evaluate youth with four or more events as high risk, but teens in the New Mexico study had as many as eight or nine events.

“That level of trauma puts those youth off the charts nationally in terms of the research,” she says.

That much trouble as their bodies and brains are developing stacks the deck against them, not just for delinquency, but also for higher risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, cancer and heart failure, according to research cited in the study.

Along with chronic disease, the toxic trauma changes the brain, leaving the kids with less emotional control and less ability to find rewards in safer places like academics, family love and friendship.

Other research demonstrates that kids with this many adverse childhood events “have immediate negative consequences, such as functional changes to the developing brain,” according to the study. It makes the kids more likely to break the law and act out in other ways, it says.

Another study author, Dr. Andrew Hsi, is medical director of the University of New Mexico’s FOCUS early intervention program, which provides support and services for families of children at risk from birth through 3 years. He says he is working with his colleagues at UNM’s Health Sciences Center to expand the program to cover families and children until they are 18 years old, because he knows this kind of support can help families change.

“These kids are working from a real disadvantage,” he says. “The sooner they are identified, the more likely they are to do better.”

Davis says he works with kids like those studied everyday and has hopes that with enough intervention and expert collaboration, kids in trouble can turn their lives around.

He isn’t surprised by the findings. “I’ve always known this is true,” he says. “It’s beyond what anyone has admitted. This contributes to a new model for understanding delinquency.”

Olmstead, Donna. "NM Youths ‘off the Chart’ for Early Trauma." Albuquerque Journal. 1 May 2016. Web. <>.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE)

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE)

Information is power.  If you want to know more about juvenile justice in the United States visit and follow @JJIEnews on twitter/com/JJIEnews and  They are also on LinkedIn.

Here are a few notes from their webpage:

"Doing what is best for children means staying well informed on governmental policies and legislation, court rulings, educational trends, treatment, research, prevention programs and other factors that impact the quality of service delivered to the kids that need them most."

"Those that care about children, education, family and the law comes to the JJIE because mainstream media no longer covers these issues with enough insight to do these serious topics moral justice. Crippled by budget constraints, mainstream media rarely examines beyond the surface except when horrific incidents occur. This approach can result in bad public policy and regressive legislation. We, as a society, owe it to our nation’s youth to do better."

"The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange takes a four-pronged approach:

1)   Great, in-depth reporting by professional journalists edited by the experienced John Fleming, Leslie Lapides and Rachel Wallack.

2)   Commentary from experts, academic researchers, practitioners and dedicated members of the public in our ‘Ideas and Opinions’ section.

3)   Interactive engagement with our audience through traditional, social and emerging medias and technologies.

4)   Editorial, action-oriented positions by publisher Leonard Witt."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Doña Ana County Officials Eye Possible Youth Jail Closure - Las Cruces Sun News

Doña Ana County Officials Eye Possible Youth Jail Closure
By Diana Alba Soular @AlbaSoular on Twitter

LAS CRUCES >> Doña Ana County administrators are eyeing a possible closure of the county's 50-bed juvenile detention facility because of a staffing shortage, sparking a flurry of concerns among local officials.

Doña Ana County Commission David Garcia during a public meeting last week criticized what he said had been a lack of communication from County Manager Julia Brown to commissioners about the proposal.

Officials said a final decision on whether the facility will be closed or not remains up in the air.

State district court judges and the district attorney said the outcome, depending on its specifics, could negatively affect juvenile detainees and their families.

Officer Shortage

Driving the possible closure of the facility, 1850 Copper Loop, is an officer staffing shortage, said county Detention Center Administrator Chris Barela. The shortage, however, isn't at the juvenile facility but rather is at the adult detention center, located next door.

Presently, for the adult facility, 49 vacant officer positions out of 151 that are budgeted — or 1 in 3 available jobs — are vacant. Those numbers exclude command staff.

The adult facility doesn't have mandatory officer staffing levels, Barela said, but there are best practices to ensure safety of officers and detainees. So, in order to meet those on-duty staffing requirements, officers are being forced to work mandatory overtime. But Barela said that takes a toll on personnel by taking away their time with family and their lives outside work.

"We're at a critical staffing level now," he said.

The juvenile facility does have mandated staffing ratios, and the county hasn't had any problem meeting those benchmarks, Barela said. But if that facility was closed, it would free up officers, who then could be transferred to the adult detention center, boosting its personnel roster.

"That would bring me 26 officers immediately, and that's a huge shot in the arm for morale and addressing overtime issues and post assignments," he said.
Concerns Abound

The proposal to close the juvenile detention center sparked a March 6 meeting among 3rd Judicial District Chief Judge Fernando Macias; Judge Marci Beyer, the main state district court judge who deals with youth offenders; County Commissioner David Garcia, County Commissioner Ben Rawson, officials with the Juvenile Probation Office, District Attorney Mark D'Antonio, Doña Ana County Sheriff Enrique "Kiki" Vigil, and public defenders office staff, officials said.

Macias said the news about the county considering a possible closure of the juvenile detention center "did trigger a lot of concern." He understands the need to have a proper staffing levels at the adult and juvenile facilities. But there could be a number of impacts to local juveniles in the justice system and the people who work with them, depending on the county's specific course of action.

"There's concern by the court because people need to discuss these issues before there is a final determination," he said.

Several of the attendees said they had concerns about one of the solutions being vetted by the county: sending juvenile detainees to another detention center in the state. Gallup was a consideration, a drive of several hours from Las Cruces. Some officials, including Garcia, said they were caught off-guard by the drastic proposal.

"The message of closing the (juvenile) detention center was never made obvious in my mind," Garcia said during a county commission meeting Tuesday.

D'Antonio said he understands the difficult seat Brown is in balancing the county's needs. But he's opposed to transporting youth detainees to another county. That would negatively affect them and their families, their attorneys — who'd have a more difficult time meeting with them — and others involved in the process. In addition, D'Antonio said there are strict time lines that must be adhered to in juvenile cases, which would be hindered if they're required to be housed outside Doña Ana County.

Macias, too, said time lines are strict.

"Juvenile cases are different from adult criminal cases, so there has to be a much quicker turnaround, especially if people are in custody," he said.

Macias, who is also a former Doña Ana County manager, said he started the county manager's job in 1997 at a time when the county was struggling to comply with a rule that requires separation of adult and juvenile detainees. The county was able to get financing that led to the construction of the juvenile detention center. Surrounding counties also have relied upon it over the years.

"It really does provide not only a local resource, but it's also a regional resource," he said.

The juvenile detention facility was built in 2000, and it opened in 2001, according to the county's website.

Communication gap

Garcia also said he was concerned about a lack of information given to Vigil and said the county's human resources process didn't seem to be yielding enough candidates to fill detention center and sheriff's department vacancies, something that should be reviewed.

"In my opinion, the board of county commissioners needs to have a stern discussion with our county manager concerning the following points: explore all the options before closing the juvenile detention center, improving communications with DASO, informing stakeholders on important declarations or decisions of the county, such pointing case as with the courts and JPO's office, exploring further the impression our HR is broken, whereas the sheriff's department wants its own HR department," he said.

After Garcia's remarks, Brown said she wanted to "clarify the record" regarding the juvenile detention center's status, noting it hasn't yet been closed. She also said she notified county commissioners in March 3 work session about having told Barela to evaluate options tied to the center.

"I directed the director to explore and investigate the cost of transporting certain elements of the detention center to other facilities within the state and to also look at the options with respect to those, such as transport," she said.

Garcia said Macias sent a "very clear" message to the county, saying the staffing problems with the detention center should have been known "long beforehand."

Barela said the detention center has been trying to solve the staffing shortage problem for the last few months. But it recently became clear "we're not going to get ahead of it."

"And it's become critical in my opinion," he said.

Vigil said his department arrests juveniles who've been accused of crimes, and there must be a facility nearby where they can be taken. In addition to not being alerted about the possible closure of the youth detention center, Vigil said he was concerned about an idea to require the sheriff's department to transport juvenile detainees to other facilities in the state — something he said he can't afford to do.

"I'm short manpower," Vigil said. "Where am I going to get the manpower?"

Rawson last week asked for the juvenile detention center to be added to an upcoming meeting agenda as a discussion item.


Brown said that after the March 6 meeting, she agreed "we'd hold off for two weeks on making any decision on closure of any portion of the detention center so we would have the opportunity to look at possible solutions that might be submitted by the courts by the juvenile probation department ... and other stakeholders who were in attendance at that meeting."

Macias said he's been in ongoing discussions with county officials looking for possible short-term solutions to the problem. One may be to ask the state's Children Youth & Families Department, which contains the Juvenile Justice Services division, for a waiver to the requirement for housing youth and adult detainees in different buildings. Such a move would require detention center policies that would maintain "sight and sound separation" of adult and youth inmates.

Asked if a waiver was a possibility, CYFD spokesman Henry Varela declined to say.

"We are aware that the Dona Ana County administration is currently exploring their options regarding the Dona Ana County youth detention facility," he said in an email Friday. "To our knowledge, no final decision has been made by the county on this issue. When a final decision is made, CYFD will work with the county within our authority to find an appropriate solution.

In addition, Macias said the courts are working with the county to see if there are ways to improve the flow of adult detainees out of the detention center.

That move could reduce the adult jail population, lowering the number of detention center officers needed at a given time.

D'Antonio said another possibility is determining whether other law enforcement, possibly retirees, who could serve as detention center officers to boost the adult detention center's personnel roster. Barela said an idea is to turn to department of corrections personnel, who staff state prisons, to fill in shifts.

"We're exploring all options," Barela said. "We certainly don't want to close down the juvenile facility and create an imposition on the community."

While there may be a short-term fix put in place, Macias said he supports having both the adult and juvenile detention centers running.

"Long-term, I'm hoping we're going to have two viable facilities in the county."
Long-term fix?

The average population of detainees at the adult detention center has actually declined in recent years, Barela said. These days, there's an average population at any given time of about 700 adults — down from the 850 to 900 people of years past.

Barela said part of that is D'Antonio's administration at the district attorney's office has cleared a backlog of detainees, along with district court judges and the public defender's office personnel, who've been proactive in addressing cases. Now, there are only about a dozen people who've been in the jail longer than a year. Previously, there were people who'd wait five to six years waiting for their cases to be resolved.

In spite of that population decline, the county is still having trouble filling officer positions at the adult facility.

"It's not really an inmate population problem; it's a staffing problem," he said.

Barela said there is high turnover among detention officers at the center, and the job is stressful. Pay also factors in. Now, a starting officer earns $11.51 per hour during a probationary employment period. After the probation, the pay level increases to $13.24 per hour, which is "not a bad rate, but it's not where we need to be."

"It's a tough job," he said. "So once people do it for a bit, they say: 'It's a much harder job than I thought it was going to be for the compensation.' Then they move on to something else."

Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 574-541-5443.

Soular, Diana A. "Doña Ana County Officials Eye Possible Youth Jail Closure." Las Cruces Sun News 14 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015. <>. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Writing Saved My Life | InsideOut Writers Program

Writing Saved My Life
InsideOut Writers Video
Video: click here

This semester, Spring 2014, a student registered for The Beat Within NMSU course, who is also a JJOCE student shared the following video with the class.  That semester we focused on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.  In our research that summer we also found out about a program of similar name but unique in its history and approach called the InsideOut Writers program.  Check out the video above, shared with us by Armando that provides more information on the program.  What's interesting over the years is stumbling across other detention focused creative arts community based programs and how many things each of these programs have in common simply based on their program names.  Hopefully we'll see concepts such as the InsideOut Writers intersect with concepts such as the Inside-Out Prison Exchange program.  

I plan on updating this blog often.  Each semester focuses on the class that is taking place that semester, which is reason for the delayed posts here.  This summer will be sharing resources from past summers as well as reconnecting some classmates that are either enrolled in new courses or keeping in touch. 

For more information on the Inside-Out Prison Exchange program check out and for more information on the InsideOut Writers program check out

Monday, July 1, 2013

NMSU Family Resource Center

A message from the NMSU Family Resource Center:

Dear colleagues,
Please let your students who have children in school know about this opportunity to receive free backpacks filled with school supplies.  This is a project of the NMSU Family Resource Center, located near the Children’s Village at 200 Cervantes C-100 (4145 Sam Steel Way).  It is the building with the hunter green doors.
The NMSU Family Resource Center is now accepting registration forms for our 2013 Backpacks for Kids Program!! The FRC will be providing backpacks with almost all of the supplies needed for the students Kindergarten – 12th grade for FREE!!   Please complete the registration form and return as soon as possible because there are a limited number of backpacks available.  This program is for main campus NMSU students (parents will be asked to show a current student ID and a current or fall course schedule).  The backpacks will be distributed on July 27 from 10:00-2:00 pm.
Registration forms can be accessed at:  Forms can be returned via email or in person.  If you have questions, please call the Family Resource Center at 646-2065 or email them at
If you would like to help support this worthwhile program, please consider donating cash (checks made out NMSU Family Resource Center) or packages of loose-leaf notebook paper.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Doin' Time, A Public Lecture Performance by Ashley Lucas