NM Public Defender's Office calls for more inmates to be released amid COVID-19 crisis | KOB 4

NM Public Defender's Office calls for more inmates to be released amid COVID-19 crisis

Nathan O'Neal
Updated: April 15, 2020 06:30 PM
Created: April 15, 2020 04:44 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The New Mexico Public Defender's Office is asking the state Supreme Court to step in, and help release more inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor issued an executive order to release inmates who meet certain criteria.

"While that was a good start, the number affected is so small that it really doesn't address the real health issues for both inmates in the state prison facilities and the correctional officers there," said Ben Bauer, Chief Public Defender.

As of Wednesday, a dozen inmates had been released from facilities operated by the New Mexico Corrections Department.

The released inmates include Mickael Sullivan, who was serving time for breaking into a car and drug possession, Amy Allen, who was locked up for shoplifting and Azaraiah Moffitt, who was incarcerated on a drug trafficking charge.

Bauer is petitioning the state Supreme Court to help reduce the population of inmates in state prisons by paying special attention to inmates at a higher risk of serious illness.

"We're asking the court and the Department of Corrections to look people who are only in custody because they violated some condition of probation or parole, there wasn't a new criminal offense," Bauer said. 

As of Wednesday, there have been no positive cases of COVID-19 in state prison facilities. However, Bauer believes timing is crucial. 

"The more we can bring people safely out into the community -- and we're not talking about unsupervised, we're not talking about pardons, we're talking about a supervised but expedited system for early release," Bauer said. 

It's unclear whether the state Supreme Court will take up this issue. 

The governor's office has not responded to the petition. 

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