4 Investigates: Sex offender probation terms going unchecked
January 30, 2019 10:28 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- New Mexico is home to thousands of sex offenders, many of them fresh out of prison and on supervised probation.
They are registered and tracked. However, 4 Investigates learned a critical piece of oversight has been missing when sex offenders are released from prison. It’s a problem that’s been going on for the last two years.
When a sex offender is released, he or she will be on supervised probation for at least five years.
According to state law, a judge must review the terms of that probation.
4 Investigates learned that those reviews have not been happening.
Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, said this is leading to a potential public safety threat.
“There is a risk that the person should be under more intensive supervision than what the judge originally ordered,” Pepin said.
The review is supposed to allow a judge to hear how the offender has responded to treatment or what the likelihood is of that offender re-offending.
Only a judge has the authority to make an assessment of what degree of supervision a sex offender has after they are released. Those assessments, all across the state, have not been happening.
The assessments have failed to take place because Pepin says there's been a breakdown in communication between the prison system and the courts.
“It is important to have long term follow up for folks convicted of criminal sex offenses,” Pepin said. “It's in the public interest to make sure that determination is made actual. It's a simple way to make sure judges look at the folks released from prison and following up with them so that their conditions can be appropriate to whatever circumstances develop once the offender is released.”
It is entirely possible that recently released convicted sex offenders are on probation plans that aren't keeping the public safe, but no one will ever know because a judge hasn't checked the plans.
State officials realized that this is a problem and began working on a solution.
The New Mexico Supreme Court is backing a proposed law to create a reporting mechanism so that the New Mexico Department of Corrections notifies the courts when sex offenders are released.
Rep. Micaela Cadena, a Democrat from Las Cruces, is sponsoring a bill that creates the reporting mechanism.
“We need to ensure the system works the way it is supposed to and that we keep families across New Mexico safe," Cadena said. "So this review hearing is how we come back to the court system, review what is in front of us, what has happened over this time period and decide whether additional supervision is warranted.”
Updated: January 30, 2019 10:28 PM
Created: January 30, 2019 08:05 PM
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