criminal justice reform

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After many attempts over what seems like forever, New Mexico has finally passed a law making recreational cannabis use legal for adults. But the rollout is not as simple as lighting a match as special considerations for how this new law will impact New Mexicans must be addressed. It raises a lot of questions: What happens to people with prior cannabis convictions? Who will have access to the emerging industry? How will equity be enacted? And how will this affect you if you don’t have citizenship status?

Wow, we just had a tense bunch of days, each one filled with anticipation and impatience and consternation. From people worrying about how the election was going to play out, to some keeping an eye on potential violence, it would be an understatement to say that anxieties were high. It makes sense, 2020 has been mad anxious as my East Coast compatriots would say. But the electoral college digits that just wouldn’t move are not the only numbers the United States has to grapple with. Most of the country spent so much of their attention on the election, news of record- breaking new covid cases barely cut through the din. No matter who’s in charge, we’ve got a lot in front of us.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Clifton White and Selinda Guerrero organized Free Them All Fridays for months, speaking out against conditions and abuses in New Mexico prisons. White had spent years behind the walls, with Guerrero on the outside calling for prisoners’ rights. After the couple pulled together the first Black Lives Matter protest of 2020 in Albuquerque in late May, White was arrested on an administrative parole violation, which Guerrero says was retaliation for their protests. She and other demonstrators called for his release all summer long. He was returned to his family late last week. KUNM talked with the couple Monday, Nov. 2, in a park, with everyone wearing masks, which you might hear in the interview.

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The final presidential debate of 2020 got passing marks because the candidates managed to take turns. But rarely did they roll out the kind of action plans the moderator was looking for. She kept asking: If elected, what will you do about this big problem we are facing? Still, candidates did not venture into specifics. We think that was by design. The strategy was, make debate No. 1 so bad that by the time debate No. 2 comes around, expectations are so low, everyone will just be grateful it’s not incoherent shouting and call it good. But in a time with multiple crises pressing down on us, specific plans can pull people together, provide direction and alleviate anxiety. So that’s what this episode is all about. What do you want to hear candidates talking about? What kinds of plans and policies do you wish they were outlining before the public?

Lonnie Anderson

Attack ads and contemporary political rhetoric about crime have a disturbing campaign ancestor: The Willie Horton ad that may have cost Michael Dukakis the presidential election in 1988. It relied on racism for its efficacy, and it ushered in an era of so-called "tough-on-crime" laws and posturing that nearly broke criminal legal systems, like the one in Albuquerque. Executive Producer and longtime criminal justice reporter Marisa Demarco navigates in Episode 13 how racist, fear-based electioneering warped the country's approach to crime. That continues to this day, favoring quick vengeance over long-term solutions that might have a real impact on crime rates. It's an addictive cycle: These methods, in fact, might be a big part of creating the problem candidates are promising to solve with them when they're counting on fear to salvage their flagging campaigns. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

In the last weeks of July, we saw high temperatures across the country. The streets heated up, and we’re not talking about the weather. We’re talking about federal forces sent to Portland, Chicago, Albuquerque and other cities. The arrival of these agents was met with public outcry and increased skepticism by lawmakers and residents alike. Others support the move. In episode 3, we take a look at what exactly is going on and what it means for our civil liberties and our democracy.

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Jeff Proctor from the Santa Fe Reporter joins me to give some historical context into criminal justice reform in New Mexico.  He also provides details on HB 263 and how that bill will affect those on probation and parole. 

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The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on Monday, Nov. 4, filed the third in a series of lawsuits charging that prison guards are sexually assaulting and abusing women who are locked up. All three lawsuits say these individual cases are part of a larger systemic problem in the state’s Department of Corrections.

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The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a second lawsuit Monday, July 29, on behalf of a woman who says she was subject to repeated sexual abuse from a corrections officer while she was in the Springer prison. The lawsuit says her complaints weren’t taken seriously by prison administration, and the accused officer maintains his job and position today.

Arianna Sena/KUNM

Let's Talk New Mexico 3/14 8a: The 2019 state legislative session ends this weekend and lawmakers have been busy. Background checks for gun sales, recreational cannabis, funding for early childhood education, an ethics commission - what have lawmakers done this year - and what have they set aside? We talked with reporters who've been covering the session. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Jonathan Sakura looked at the spot where his car was parked outside his home a couple nights ago when someone smashed the rear window and grabbed his girlfriend’s bag. "It’s a bummer. It’s violating," he said. "You know, this is our property. This is our stuff. And somebody taking something that doesn’t belong to them— it’s kinda disheartening, and morale drops a little bit."

Hannah Colton / KUNM

In Bernalillo County’s Metro Court, judges hear cases about drunk driving, domestic violence, drugs, traffic tickets, and small civil claims. It’s the busiest court in the state and the only one like it here. Here’s how it works: When someone wants to appeal a decision from Metro Court, they have to present the case again at District Court across the street and get an OK before it heads up to Appeals Court. This election, there’s a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would free lawmakers up to change this appeals system.

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New Mexico’s criminal justice system gets clogged. The courts, the public prosecutors and defenders, they’ve all said they don’t have enough money or staff to process cases fast enough. Growing backlogs, people and details falling through the cracks—those complaints are common. Lawmakers are weighing a bill that would pull minor offenses out of the court system.

Andrew Lyman / NM Political Report

Gov. Susana Martinez will give the final State of the State address of her second term on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the start of the legislative session. She’ll likely be framing her legacy as someone who’s been tough on crime.

Bail Bondsmen Back Governor On Bail Amendment Repeal

Oct 19, 2017
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Governor Susana Martinez called this week for lawmakers to repeal a bail bond amendment during next year’s legislative session and bail bondsmen are on board with her effort.

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The New Mexico attorney general had some sharp words late last week about a lawsuit filed by bail bondsmen. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the AG’s Office called it  “patently meritless” and “desperate.” 

LISTEN: What's It Cost To Get Tough On Crime?

Mar 6, 2017
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KUNM Call In Show 3/9 8a: Violent crimes have stolen headlines over the last year, while property crimes remain a persistently unpleasant part of life all over New Mexico. Lawmakers in Santa Fe are debating how to reduce crime—but with little money available to do it. Which ideas could reduce crime and save money? Which sound good but cost a lot and have no guarantee? And which proposals have more to do with politics than anything else? 

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How quickly criminal cases work their way through the system has a big impact on defendants’ lives. And it’s been a little over a year since the state Supreme Court first set deadlines to speed things up and clear thousands of backlogged cases in Bernalillo County, the state’s busiest judicial district. The criminal justice system is still adjusting.

Speeding Up Trials Safely

Mar 7, 2016
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KUNM Call In Show Thu. 3/10 8a: New Mexico's Supreme Court created a new set of rules aimed at clearing a backlog of cases in Bernalillo County's criminal justice system. But there's been pushback from folks who say the new deadlines are tough to meet. 

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UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that New Mexico House Republicans and Senate Democrats say they have reached a compromise on a bail reform proposal.

Both sides spoke Friday at a press conference, with Republican Rep. David Adkins saying the bill crafted by Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, is the "right piece of legislation to support."

Call In Show: Criminal Justice Reform

Jul 29, 2015
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The nation’s prison system is in crisis. Prison and jail populations ballooned to an all-time high, and the number of people on probation and parole has doubled.

Meanwhile, we're spending more on incarceration than we ever have—and most of that money comes out of the states’ pockets.

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The Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform Committee met on Wednesday to talk about bail, among other topics. According to one speaker, the high cost of bail creates a system where people who can pay are released, while people in poverty remain behind bars. 

Arthur Pepin has a lot of work in front of him. He’s the director of the Bernalillo County Criminal Justice Review Commission, a group tasked with figuring out how to decrease the population at the county jail.