Desert Hills Youth Detention Center Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Fighting for Survivors of Staff-on-Inmate Abuse

If you were sexually abused while housed at the Desert Hills Youth Detention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, you may have grounds to pursue legal action and a financial recovery of your damages.

Desert Hills Youth Detention Center has been the scene of numerous complaints related to not only staff-on-inmate sexual abuse, but also staff-on-inmate violence, staff-supported violence, and a lack of vigilance in youth placements.

But youth who have suffered any type of abuse at the hands of staff at the Desert Hills Center may have the opportunity to seek justice and financial compensation. The statute of limitations may still be on your side when it comes to getting the results you deserve.

Levy Konigsberg is a top-rated trial practice with a legacy of litigating sexual abuse lawsuits for survivors across New Mexico and the nation. We’re representing a growing number of men and women who were abused while incarcerated at Desert Hills Youth Detention Center and other New Mexico juvenile detention centers, and are available to help survivors explore their rights under the law.

If you have questions about pursuing a Desert Hills Youth Detention Center sexual abuse lawsuit, we want to help. Call or contact us online for a FREE and confidential consultation.

History of Abuse at Desert Hills Youth Detention Center

Founded in 1990, Desert Hills Youth Detention Center was a behavioral health center located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They offered a range of services from sub-acute residential treatment all the way to community-based programs with male and female patients ranging from 6-18.

The facility was meant for youth struggling with addiction, behavioral disorders, mood disorders, and other mental health disorders. They boasted of their ability to offer patient-focused, family-centered, strength-based care to provide patients with excellent care. However, the reports tell a very different story of just what happened in the facility.

Their history of abuse and mistreatment of youth, and of condoning mistreatment by othersof others mistreating and abusing the youth, has been the subject of investigations, civil lawsuits, and criminal cases for many years.

These investigations and cases have spanned over six years and have revealed evidence of systemic abuse and misconduct within the facility, including numerous instances and reports of sexual abuse.  A few examples include the case of Clarence Garcia:

  • In July 2023, a jury in New Mexico awarded $485 million in a case against Desert Hills and others as a result of their finding that the facility had placed an 8-year-old girl in the foster care of despite knowing that Clarence Garcia despite knowing that he was sexually abusing and assaulting female children in his care. Mr. Garcia was also charged criminally with 11 counts of criminal sexual contact and 2 counts of child rape. 
  • In January 2023, Mr. Garcia pled guilty to 7 counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor as part of a plea deal that would allow him to avoid jail time. This related to a total of 6 girls who had been placed under his care over a period of 6 years. This plea deal was offered based on the fact that New Mexico law requires survivors to speak in court and the prosecutor wished to spare them this requirement.
  • In April 2023, Mr. Garcia was alleged to have violated the terms of his probation by having a prohibited Facebook account that included photos of young family members, a bag of children’s stuffed animals, a book of children in suggestive poses, knives, firearm accessories, and video games with chat functions. 

Other examples of the culture of secrecy and knowledge of the mistreatment and abuse of youth include: 

  • In April 2019, 7 lawsuits were filed claiming that Desert Hills had failed in its duty to protect its clients from abuse, both physical and sexual, from not only its own workers but from the other patients as well. This included allegations of fight clubs within the facility that were instigated and encouraged by staff members, as well as sex between staff and minor patients. It also included the spread of HIV among patients and what was termed as excessive use of restraints, reported at over 30 incidents in just 60 days. The facility was subsequently shut down by New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). 
  • In February 2019, a lawsuit was filed alleging that a 7-year-old boy suffered from sexual abuse by older children at the Desert Hills Youth Detention Center. The incidents were alleged to have occurred beginning in 2017, while the CYFD was investigating the center. 
  • In May 2018, an investigative report found several issues had already been cited for Desert Hills. This included the fact that CYFD auditors had found problems with home inspection reports that were filed by every one of the treatment foster care companies that were operating in New Mexico between the years 2015 and 2017. Also, 288 violations had been found against Desert Hills since 2012, including missing criminal records checks and incomplete home inspections. And yet, the CYFD continued to renew the licensing for the facility claiming that the facility had a commitment to correct the deficiencies.

Do I Have a Case?

You may have grounds to file a Desert Hills Youth Detention Center sexual abuse lawsuit if:

  • You were sexually abused by a counselor, supervisor, other facility staff member, or foster family placement.
  • The abuse occurred at Desert Hills or a foster placement made by Desert Hills.

At Levy Konigsberg, we support survivors in civil actions that aim to hold responsible entities accountable for their failures to stop abusive staff members and foster placements and protect young inmates.

As civil claims, these cases are separate from any criminal proceedings that may arise from abuse and focus instead on holding institutions liable for damages. This means you may still have a claim even if:

  • Your abuser is no longer alive.
  • Your abuser was never charged or convicted of a crime.

Recoverable Damages in New Mexico Juvenile Center Sexual Abuse Claims

In addition to providing accountability and a sense of justice, civil sex abuse lawsuits allow survivors to recover financial compensation for their damages, which may include:

  • Past medical and mental health expenses
  • Future mental health expenses, including therapy, medications, etc.
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish and psychological harm
  • Lost income
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

 Our New Mexico juvenile center sexual abuse attorneys at Levy Konigsberg know that child sexual abuse has profound and lifelong consequences. We can help you evaluate the potential value of your claim and how we can fight for the maximum recovery possible.

New Mexico’s Statute of Limitations for Civil Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

Under current New Mexico law, survivors of childhood sexual abuse typically have until age 24 to bring their claims.

 Determining the statute of limitations in your case can be challenging, which is why it is best to have your matter evaluated personally by an attorney. At Levy Konigsberg, our award-winning team has extensive experience representing survivors in sexual abuse lawsuits against many powerful defendants and institutions, and can help you understand the statute of limitations in your case.

Call for a FREE Consultation:

Levy Konigsberg is a top-rated trial practice that’s recovered over $3 billion in compensation for clients. Let by award-winning lawyers, we’ve built a legacy for litigating high-stakes sexual abuse lawsuits on behalf of survivors across New Mexico and the U.S., and for our ability to take on powerful private and public institutions that failed to protect victims.

If you have questions about pursuing a lawsuit over sexual abuse that occurred when you were a minor or young adult housed at Desert Hills or another New Mexico juvenile detention or residential treatment center, we want to help. We serve survivors statewide and work on contingency, which means there’s no cost to hire our team and no fee unless we win.

Call for a FREE and confidential consultation.


Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.


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