February 18, 2023

A bill that would end life sentencing for children in New Mexico heads to Senate floor

A bill that would end life sentencing for children who are sentenced as adults for violent crimes passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday.

SB 64, No Life Sentence for Juveniles, is sponsored by state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque. She said the bill this year is different from previous versions. It would end life without parole as a sentencing potential and create early parole eligibility for long sentencing.

“It brings New Mexico in line with national best practices and what every parent knows. Children are works in progress. We need sentencing laws that allow for transformation,” she said.

State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, introduced an amendment for the bill which state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, presented in Pirtle’s absence. The amendment creates eligibility for a person convicted of a violent crime while a child to be eligible for release at 20 or 25 years, rather than 15.

A person convicted while still a juvenile but sentenced as an adult for first degree murder other than a felony murder would not be eligible for parole until they have served 25 years of their sentence, Denali Wilson, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said.

The amended bill now heads to the Senate floor.