More than 500 inmates and counting released due to pandemic concerns

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As of July 2021, more than 500 inmates in New Mexico‘s prisons have been let out early on the governor’s orders to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The state did not release violent criminals, mostly people behind bars for theft and drugs. The New Mexico Corrections Department said they’re closely monitoring them.

In April 2020 when the pandemic started tearing through New Mexico, the state had around 6,590 inmates in its network of prisons. Since then, the Department of Corrections has released 532 inmates early and more are waiting in the queue to get out. “The goal of the executive order was to really decrease the population to allow for social distancing and really minimize the spread of COVID in the prison system,” said Eric Harrison with the DOC.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive order in April 2020 directed the DOC to let inmates out 30 days before their projected release date. “There was very strict criteria that needed to be met including parole plans had to be in place which included appropriate housing and any community-based treatment that was necessary or programs all had to be in place prior to their release,” said Harrison.

The state isn’t letting just anyone walk free. “No sex offenders, felony DWI offenders, domestic abuse,” added Harrison. Basically non-violent offenses like drugs, theft, and fraud to name a few.

Convicts like Stanley Milton and Eduardo Triste. Milton was caught trying to steal computers from Freedom High School back in 2016 and Triste swindled a woman out of $60,000 by convincing her to invest in a fake salsa business. Triste is set to be released later this month. Although the state has lifted its COVID-19 restrictions, the executive order remains. The Governor’s Office said it’s still trying to keep up with vaccinations for DOC staff and inmates.

For the prisoners who do get out, they have to meet with probation and parole officers to make sure they’re sticking to their release plan. “These are individualized plans so that offenders, when they’re released, they’re successful,” said Harrison. “The community stays safe and that offenders, that individual is able to reintegrate back into society to be our neighbors.”

KRQE News 13 asked the DOC what the recidivism rate of these released offenders was. DOC said it’s trying to figure that out. They say the majority of their inmates are vaccinated even though they are not required to get the shot. The state said they’re also notifying the victims of the offenders before their release.

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