SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico coalition of civil liberties, human rights and faith-based groups renewed its calls for evidence-based criminal justice solutions from state lawmakers on Wednesday, vowing to question politicized proposals for harsh penalties as an election-year legislative session approaches.
New Mexico SAFE released a report that compiles evaluations of two dozen recent anti-crime bills that span issues from minor drug possession penalties and youth curfews to solitary confinement and local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Steven Robert Allen of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said the coalition was wary of legislative proposals when the legislature reconvenes in 2018 that may be aimed at scoring political points for election candidates without effectively addressing crime difficulties. It also scores bills based whether they are likely to be cost-effective.
“A lot of these proposals come back year after year,” Allen said. “We want to make sure that we have a different, more-realistic conversation about proposals that come back.”
New Mexico SAFE has assigned failing grades to bills that unsuccessfully attempted to reinstate the death penalty and extend mandatory life sentences to additional violent crimes, among other proposals.
It gave high marks to several bills vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez that would limit the use of solitary confinement and remove some restrictions on post-conviction employment.
The governor has discretion over which non-budgetary bills can be considered during an abbreviated 30-day session that takes place in 2018 and other even-numbered years. However vetoed bills can be reintroduced without consent.
Fall elections in November 2018 include the race for governor, all seats in the House of Representatives and statewide offices including attorney general and state land commissioner.
The New Mexico SAFE coalition involves about 30 groups that include the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the League of Women Voters, Native American Voters Alliance and the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops. SAFE is an acronym for Safe, Apolitical, Fiscally-Responsible and Evidence-Based.