Criminal justice reform may still be in the cards for New Mexico
By Marisa Demarco
Overriding a governor's veto is no easy task. In fact, it's only been accomplished twice in New Mexico since 1970. But legislators will likely attempt to do just that for a bill that aims to reduce the number of nonviolent drug offenders in jail.
It was Day 30. The mood in both chambers sagged. Legislators spoke testily and lacked the buoyant friendliness that usually accompanied the morning announcements, introductions and notes. Reporters settled in for a long day and night, one that wouldn't end until after 4 a.m. The final hours of the session ticked away, and Wednesday, Feb. 17, looked to be dreary, long—and surreal. A stuffed oryx head sat in a chair on the Senate floor. A Catholic priest had been at the Roundhouse in the morning hours providing ashes for Ash Wednesday. A poor version of "God Bless America" rang through the chamber with senators trailing off after the first verses.
Carolyn Carlson penned a great article this week on Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas bill that would give drug users a treatment option instead of a jail sentence.
Among the key arguments in favor of this measure: It would save a lot of money. Possession charges can result in 18 months in the slammer. It can cost $22 million a year to jail nonviolent drug offenders. It only costs about $6,500 to treat them. All of that info comes from the Legislative Finance Committee.
One argument against the legislation: Would addicts really be motivated to attend a treatment program, or is this just a way of letting them off easy?
Will New Mexico offer drug users treatment instead of jail time?
By Carolyn Carlson
There might be some good news on the horizon for those caught in the revolving criminal door of drug addiction. Proposed state legislation would give judges the discretion to offer people with drug-possession charges a chance to participate in a treatment program instead of spending time in jail.
More than a thousand people from around the globe gathered in Downtown Albuquerque from Nov. 12 through 14 to forge a plan for better drug laws. The International Drug Policy Reform Conference brought together scientists, police chiefs and law enforcement officers, think tank policy-makers, human rights activists and government officials. Three days of workshops pointed toward one idea: The “war on drugs” is a failure.