April 1, 2015

Two criminal justice reform bills await action by Gov

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A week and a half after the end of the 2015 Legislative Session in New Mexico, two lawmakers are waiting to see the fate of two bipartisan bills aimed at reforming criminal justice laws.

RoundhouseThe bills passed the legislature and are now awaiting action from Gov. Susana Martinez.

Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, each sponsored bills endorsed by the interim Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee. The two lawmakers also co-chaired the committee.

Torraco sponsored SB 358, which would allow inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses to enter into a halfway house during the last year of incarceration. Torraco told New Mexico Political Report she hopes this would reduce the recidivism rate. She said the current system is setting up newly released inmates to fail.

“They basically open the doors to the penitentiary and say ‘good luck’”, Torraco said.

The bill, Torraco said, would also encourage inmates to become employed and help offset the costs of running the halfway house program.

Maestas’ HB 332 aimed at shortening some probation periods was also endorsed by the subcommittee and passed both legislative chambers. His bill would shorten supervised probation for those who do not acquire any more violations. Maestas told New Mexico Political Report that the intention of the bill is not to end probation periods early but to free up resources.

“The point is to alleviate the stress of the probation department,” Maestas said.

To qualify for the unsupervised probation option, an individual would have to be supervised for a year and one month without any infractions.

Both Maestas and Torraco are hopeful the governor will sign their respective bills into law. Torraco said she had recently checked that her halfway house bill had not yet been signed, but was “that ‘yet’ is the key word”. She added that support from the Department of Corrections will also encourage Martinez to sign the bill.

The current membership for the Criminal Justice Subcommittee hasn’t been announced, but Maestas said he believes there will not be many changes. One big changes is that Torraco will not be on the subcommittee. She told New Mexico Political Report that she resigned from the committee in order to spend more time with her family.

“My children are suffering so I decided not to come back,” she said about leaving the committee. She will remain a member of other interim committees and in the Senate.

Martinez has until April 10 to either sign or veto the rest of the legislation that passed the House and Senate. Anything not signed by the deadline is automatically pocket vetoed.

Update:

Post updated to clarify that Torraco will remain in the Senate, just not on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

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