Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

New program aims to help children of felons avoid life of crime

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – When it comes to a life of crime, the apple, unfortunately, may not fall far from the tree. That’s why the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is investing in a new program to stop the children of convicted criminals from going down the same path.

The DA’s office has launched a new program called Uplift. A social worker will help connect kids whose parents are charged with a felony, to services that will help them cope with the trauma they’ve endured and provide them with stable housing, food, and health care.

“One of the root causes of crime is childhood trauma,” said Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez. “It’s very rare that we see someone convicted of a violent crime, or an extreme kind of crime, that doesn’t have some type of early childhood trauma,” Torrez explained.

“Those kids often end up having behavioral issues,” Torrez said. “They struggled in school, sometimes they end up dropping out, or getting involved with a gang.”

One of those kids is Adrian Nieto. His mom Brenda was arrested in 2016 for abandonment and child abuse. When deputies responded to her home, they found trash covering the floor and dog feces in every room. Nieto was only 14 at the time of his mom’s arrest. Police say he’s been in and out of trouble since he was 12.

In 2020 Nieto made APD’s Metro 15 list, for drug and gun charges. He’s also been in trouble for running away from the boys reintegration center and pleaded guilty to federal gun charges after taking a gun onto the Lavaland Elementary School campus.

Torrez is hopeful the program will change the path of some of these kids are on while building a safer Albuquerque for the future. “We can do better as a society,” Torrez said. “We can do better as a criminal justice system if we started paying attention to those traumatized kids.”

The program launched three weeks ago, and so far they have referred 13 kids to the program.

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