Advocates help prepare incarcerated youth for reentry

Advocates help prepare incarcerated youth for reentry

(De)serving Life is a local organization focused on helping incarcerated New Mexicans reenter society successfully.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Stephen Taylor has represented more youth in the state and federal systems than he can count.

“They weren’t violent at heart, they weren’t evil,” Taylor said. “At their core, they were really scared.”

Taylor is the executive director of (De)serving Life, an organization focused on helping incarcerated New Mexicans reenter society successfully. He also represents adults who are serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were young.

“We want people to, in a trauma-informed way, be able to heal by taking account for their actions,” Taylor said.

Taylor helped start the organization after Senate Bill 64 became law, abolishing life sentences for juveniles. He helped identify 27 eligible offenders to see the New Mexico Parole Board.

“For the last six or seven months, meeting people each week, getting to know them and their families and being able to help them learn to tell their stories, so that they’re best prepared when they go before the board,” Taylor said.

He believes if you can get to the root of a person’s actions, you can help them heal and prepare for society.

“We come in to work with people, to get them in touch with themselves and their feelings, and help them really explore how they can best take account for that harm they caused so long ago,” Taylor said.

Nine of the 27 people on the backlog have been released on parole. Two more are still waiting on a decision from the Parole Board.

“I know that some of our clients still have some work to do on their journey toward this redemption, and toward release,” Taylor said. “We’ve committed to continuing to support them.”

Taylor said the recidivism rate in other states where people have been released from a life sentence sits around 1%, proving most can do more good outside prison walls, rather than inside.

Taylor said the organization will be supporting those who were denied parole so they can do the work to prepare for the next hearing – in most cases that takes five years. The other goal of the organization is to expand those same second chances to medically fragile or elderly people, as well as those who committed crimes as young adults.