A decision on reopening a juvenile reintegration program near historic Fort Stanton is expected to come this winter.
"The Children, Youth and Families Department continues to study the issues related to possibly reopening the site formerly know as Camp Sierra Blanca and establishing it as a facility for CYFD youth," said department spokesperson Enrique Knell. "We have targeted making a final decision by the beginning of the 2013 legislative session."
The New Mexico Legislature is scheduled to begin its 60-day session on Jan. 15, 2013.
Earlier this year the department's deputy cabinet secretary said a new detention facility could open in October. And in May CYFD Cabinet Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines said a quick decision was needed because the doors of juvenile facilities in the state were "bursting at the seams."
"CYFD's current bed capacity for all secure facilities is 264," Knell said. "Throughout the last year we have operated at or above capacity. We project that our secure facility population will grow by nearly 40 clients in the coming years."
Earlier this year, CYFD officials said while the previous camp had room for up to 48 youth, a reopened facility would initially have half the capacity.
"One of our key requirements is to locate a facility that can be operational quickly with minimal taxpayer investment," Knell said. "We also need a facility in the southeast
As of Sept. 27, there were four teens from Lincoln County in CYFD facilities. Otero County had 13 youth in the system. And there were 24 teens from Chaves County.
Two public meetings, one in Carrizozo in March, and another in Ruidoso in May, brought public comment, both positive and negative, on reopening what had once been Camp Sierra Blanca. Some argued a detention facility in the area northeast of Ruidoso would be inappropriate given the area's changing character from rural to high-dollar residential development and an emphasis on historic preservation and recreation. Others, however, said the juveniles at the camp in the past had helped area communities with things like clean-up days and provided jobs.
If revitalized, the facility would require a staff of 50 with a yearly budget of $3 million.
Closed nearly four years ago, the juvenile offender rehabilitation camp had been in operation for more than 10 years. Initially the facility had been operated by American Marine Institute and experienced few problems. But the state changed the company that ran the camp. During the later tenure of CiviGenics there were problems including several escapes. One of the incidents involved escapees who were accused of kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, aggravated burglary and a motor vehicle theft.