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NMSU student group to host juvenile justice conference

It?s called the school to prison pipeline and a group of New Mexico State University students is taking steps to try and disrupt it.


Group of people standing together behind a truck
From left: Ruben Sanchez (Surveillance Officer), Ivette Ramirez, Deborah Blalock, Michelle Campbell, Paulina Sanchez, Peter Vargas, Xenia Lopez, Alex Medina, and Heather Odell. Members of NMSU?s Alpha Phi Sigma group are shown here with other youth program mentors after a community service event. (Courtesy photo)

NMSU?s criminal justice national honor society Alpha Phi Sigma will host a juvenile justice rehabilitation conference from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Friday, April 15 at Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces. The conference speakers will include juvenile offenders telling their personal stories as well as psychologists, public school counselors, juvenile justice workers and judicial system officials exploring solutions.

?There is an alarming trend across the country. Education and public safety policies are pushing young people out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system, and a disproportionate number of those are minority students,? said Andrea Joseph, NMSU associate professor of criminal justice in the College of Arts and Sciences and APS faculty adviser. ?Our hope is to facilitate a discussion highlighting the work and programs that we have in our community that already help at risk youth and to identify ways to improve them.?

The conference is supported by the Southern Area Health Education Center (SoAHEC) and the Southwest Regional National Child Protection Training Center, both located at NMSU.

?We want to discuss what is working and what needs still exist -- programs, mentors, etc. from the community and what we need from the legislature,? Joseph said. ?We are in the process of inviting all senators and representatives from Southern New Mexico to attend. We also hope to get participants from the area schools and counsellors, as well as law enforcement and truancy officers.?

Some of the APS members have become mentors to at-risk youth in the drug court program and also have provided tutoring services to youth with truancy issues.

?Truancy is a major predictor of future delinquency,? said Deborah Blalock, APS member and criminal justice graduate student. ?If we can prevent truancy and improve their desire for education, it benefits all involved. It is one step we are able to take to disrupt the pipeline.?

Register for the conference at: https://swrtc.nmsu.edu/alphaphisigma. The fee is $50 for those seeking continuing education units and law enforcement or $60 at the door. The cost is $30 for others attending the conference without CEUs. The conference is free for students with a valid NMSU ID.