Five activists holding banners and handing out fliers intend to raise awareness about alternatives to incarceration for juveniles.
The 6th Judicial District – which includes Archuleta, San Juan and La Plata counties – offers several programs aimed at changing behavior and ending recidivism, including a diversion program, DUI court, drug court, behavioral health court and victim-offender mediation, but participants at Friday’s demonstration in front of the La Plata County Courthouse said more can be done, especially for children.
“We don’t feel as though enough is being done,” said Chris Mendoza, an intern with Save the Kids and a sophomore at Fort Lewis College. “We just feel there needs to be more use of them (alternatives to incarceration).”
Save the Kids is billed as an all-volunteer national grass-roots organization dedicated to alternatives to and the end of incarceration of all youths and the “school to prison pipeline,” according to its website.
Efforts to reduce incarceration and implement programs that set children on a better path are being embraced across the country.
In a sign of changing attitudes, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings in 2012 and 2016 that effectively ended lifetime prison terms without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.
In addition to advocating for reforms in the criminal justice system, Save the Kids wants to curb harsh discipline by schools, including suspensions, expulsions and no-tolerance policies.
Mendoza and his group plan to meet Friday afternoons – especially the first and last Fridays of the month – in front of the courthouse to advocate for more preventive measures and less punitive justice when it comes to youths.
They started demonstrating Feb. 24, and hope to grow their numbers in coming weeks.