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Al Jazeera America Goes inside New Mexico’s Juvenile System
NEW YORK, April 3, 2015 – On Sunday, April 12th at 10pm ET/7pm PT, Al Jazeera America gives voice to the voiceless and shines a light on an under-reported story by going inside an institution for teenage thieves, arsonists, gang bangers…and even kids who kill.
In the hour-long special, “Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report,” Al Jazeera America was given extensive access inside a once-notorious juvenile lock-up, the J. Paul Taylor Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where the state is now trying something new: offering education, counseling, and maybe even a second chance for juvenile offenders.
The reforms come as part of a 2009 settlement with the ACLU, after a lawsuit that accused New Mexico juvenile centers of failing to protect the health, mental and physical safety of youth offenders. Complaints included locking youths in solitary confinement, abusing them and lying about the level of violence. Under a new program known as CAMBIAR, the J. Paul Taylor Center and other juvenile centers in New Mexico now provide up to six and a half hours of daily schooling, specialized counseling, and guards that double as mentors. The reforms are aimed at helping a state with one of the nation’s poorest populations of children.
"Every time I watched the interactions with counselors and the security videos of them fighting, all I could think about was how critical it is that programs like this work,” Soledad O’Brien said.
In “Kids Behind Bars: A Soledad O’Brien Special Report,” Al Jazeera America examines the human impact of CAMBIAR, modeled after a similar program in Missouri with one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country. New Mexico’s Juvenile Justice Services director Sandra Stewartsays, “Instead of just warehousing kids and watching them serve their time, the kids learn to do everything together in a unit and the staff [are] trained to be more along the lines of mentors, team leaders and coaches rather than correctional officers.”
Soledad O’Brien goes inside the facility to observe day-to-day interactions in a place where, unlike other facilities, inmates are known as “clients,” solitary confinement is prohibited and juveniles even have the opportunity to remove their tattoos. And, we meet family members of some of the offenders, who express hope about the positive changes they have observed in their children.
With more than 60,000 kids under the age of 21 locked up in America, can New Mexico’s innovative new approach show that therapy, education and counseling are more effective than traditional punishment for juvenile offenders? Or will the cycle continue?
About Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America is the U.S. news channel that provides both domestic and international news for American audiences. Headquartered in New York City with bureaus in 12 cities across the United States, Al Jazeera America is available in more than 64 million homes in the U.S. on Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV Channel 347, Dish Network Channel 216, Verizon FiOS Channel 614 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 1219. The name “Al Jazeera” means “peninsula.” Al Jazeera America’s distinctive logo is a calligraphic design spelling “Al Jazeera” in Arabic. To find Al Jazeera America in your area, visit www.aljazeera.com/getajam.
Visit Al Jazeera America online at http://www.aljazeera.com/america for the latest updates. You can also like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/aljazeeraamerica, follow us on Twitter @AJAM (www.twitter.com/ajam) and join the conversation using #AlJazeeraAmerica.
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