State senator pushes for juvenile sentencing bill | KOB 4

State senator pushes for juvenile sentencing bill

Marian Camacho and Kai Porter
February 05, 2018 06:57 PM

SANTA FE, N.M. – State lawmakers are taking up a bill that would change the way the state punishes children and teenagers for violent crimes.


Right now, if a minor commits a violent crime and is sentenced as a juvenile, they are sent to a detention facility and are released when they are 21. Sen. Gregory A. Baca, R-Belen, is sponsoring Senate Bill 243. It would give a Children’s Court judge a third option -- a juvenile sanction with an adult criminal sentence. 

“It increases public safety," Baca said. "We're not letting people out that maybe shouldn't be let out”

Baca introduced the bill because of the Nehemiah Griego case. The 20-year-old who shot and killed five family members five years ago is set to be released when he turns 21 in March, but prosecutors are appealing to keep him in custody.

"That case has been shocking. It shocks the conscience," Baca said. "Five murders, less than four years in a juvenile facility, it's not even one murder per year. And from all accounts, we don't know that he's been effectively treated and is safe to let out."

Under the bill, the court would have the authority to look at certain cases and determine whether an individual is indeed rehabilitated. If the court feels the individual poses a danger to the community, then the bill would allow for a sentence in an adult prison after that.

Baca believes juveniles could be more willing to participate in treatment if they know they won't automatically be released when they turn 21 and could be given a prison sentence.

"If you sentence someone and they're going to get out at 21 period, what does that say?" Baca asked. "It says, 'I can participate in treatment or I don't have to.' The consequence is identical, so really that's what it's really getting at and that's what we want. We want people that are ready to go back and be integrated into society."

Baca said 13 other states already have a similar law on the books. The bill is waiting to be heard in its first Senate committee.


Marian Camacho and Kai Porter

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