Created: November 21, 2019 06:22 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- State lawmakers, policy experts and business leaders talked about criminal justice reform Thursday at a symposium that was organized by the Coalition for Public Safety.
"We're a national organization devoted to reforming criminal justice systems at the state and federal level,” said the coalition's deputy director, Jenna Moll.
The topics discussed included probation and parole reform, allowing people with a criminal record to get occupational licenses and improving re-entry and employment opportunities for people who have been released from prison.
"Today is a chance for local elected officials, concerned voters, agency officials, and stakeholders to come together with national leaders from across the country,” she said. “Leaders who have already passed these reforms in their home states, so we can learn from them and then design New Mexico specific solutions to the problems that we're facing in this state."
KOB 4 asked two of the state lawmakers, attending the conference, for their reaction to Albuquerque's homicide rate, which is tied with the yearly record of 72.
"It's frustrating to see that the crime is continuing to be a problem,” said State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado. “I know Mayor Keller has really made it an issue for Albuquerque, of course I live just a little bit south of Albuquerque, but what happens in the big city affects me, definitely 20 minutes away."
"These crimes are just heartbreaking,” said State Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas . “A lot of crimes you don't hear about, but they're just as heartbreaking to the families. Our heart goes to this community and we're going to do our best so there’s less crimes in the future."
A bill lawmakers will debate during the upcoming legislative session deals with probation and parole reform.
"It distinguishes between breaking the law and breaking the rules,” said Maestas, who plans on sponsoring the bill. “If you break the rules, you still need to be held accountable, but you don't deserve to be sent back to prison.”
The governor vetoed a similar bill after the last session. Maestas says they're currently crafting a new version.
"The research has shown nationally that sending someone back to prison could be counterproductive if they're not a threat to public safety or they're not breaking the law,” said Maestas.
Baldonado plans to support the bill.
"I think the conversations have happened to make that bill work for everybody and I think we'll see some daylight this time," he said.
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