Forum on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Covers Many Critical Topics

June 18, 2018 12:44 pm

Santa Fe– Violent crime rates in New Mexico are up- dramatically. Startling crime stats and other important topics were covered in a Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform forum at the State Capitol today. Experts from around the country joined state legislators and criminal justice reform advocates from around New Mexico at the day-long forum.

The first topic of the forum was: Advancing Strategies to Reduce Crime. It included adiscussion on New Mexico’s overall reported violent crime rate which has increased nine percent from 2006 to 2016. That increase was driven by a 22% spike in robbery and a four percent increase in aggravated assault. Both rural and urban communities have been impacted by these trends. State and local leaders are discussing how they can better coordinate to develop and implement strategies to reduce crime.

Other forum topics included: Behavioral Health Needs in the Criminal Justice System; Consequences of Criminal Convictions; and Promoting Strategies to Reduce Recidivism.

The Senior Legal and Policy Advisor from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in Austin, Texas, Carl Reynolds, said to keep criminal from reoffending, it is important that programs and resources focus on high risk and moderate risk cases, and not only those low-risk cases that are easy to treat. “You can have more bang for the buck bytreating those at high risk,” Reynolds said. He said when those with serious needs are released from prison they need to be provided a well-rounded supervision system and out-patient drug treatment to help prevent them from returning to prison. (Youtube soundbite)

The State Corrections Department projects that the state prison population will increase 14 percent over the next decade. Recently, New Mexico was one of 16 states where at least 40 percent of the people serving sentences in state prison had been convicted of property or drug offenses. State leaders are exploring various strategies to keep people from reoffending.

New Mexico State Senator Sander Rue who is the Co-Chair of the Criminal Justice ReformSubcommittee and a panelist in today’s forum said the state should not address criminal justicereform in a piecemeal fashion. Senator Rue said the state needs to take bold, decisive action and be willing to make a commitment to fund comprehensive reform so it has an opportunity to work.

“We need to learn to be patient with this and we need to build-in good data collection and outcome- based performance to see whether programs and reforms are working. If they are working let us put more resources in them. If they are not working let us drop them and move on to something that is working. We have limited resources so we cannot afford to waste anything,” Senator Rue Said

Like many states across the nation, New Mexico has seen an increase in the number of drug overdose deaths over the last decade. Local and state law enforcement and Corrections report that many people in their custody struggle with mental illnesses and substance abuse, or co- occurring disorders. New Mexico state leaders are interested in developing a variety of statewide strategies to divert people who have behavior health conditions, when appropriate, to effective crisis and community –based behavior health services.

Senator Rue said the Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee will meet numerous times thisyear to continue today’s discussion as it seeks legislative solutions to criminal justice reform prior to the 2019 Legislative Session.

Numerous other leaders took part in the forum including: Senator Richard C. Martinez, Co- chair, Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee (CCJ); Representative Gail Chasey, Co- chair, CCJ; Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas, Co-Chair, CJRS; David Jablonski, Secretary of the Corrections Department; Linda Freeman, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Sentencing Commission.

Today’s Forum is a continuation of the 50-State Summit in Public Safety that was held in November 2017 in Washington, D.C.

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Sources: Public release from Republican Senate Office