New Mexico Public Defender’s Office files petition for emergency prisoner release effort

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The State Public Defender’s Office is asking the State Supreme Court to safely release more inmates from prison. Defense attorneys argue prisons have become hotbeds for the coronavirus because inmates cannot practice social distancing there. Attorneys are asking the court to do an analysis and release non-violent offenders, pregnant inmates and those with medical conditions.

“Doing nothing guarantees an outbreak of COVID-19 that is certain to spread to neighboring communities,” said LOPD Appellate Defender Kim Chavez-Cook in a press release. “Safely reducing prison populations so inmates and staff can protect themselves from infection is a constitutional and moral obligation.”

There were no positive COVID-19 tests in a New Mexico prison but there were positive tests in county jails. “There are people held in our prisons who can be safely released back to our communities,” Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said in the same press release. “We aren’t jeopardizing public safety with this, we are protecting it. Our hope is to convert any sentence into a supervised release or community corrections, so this is not a get out of jail free card.”

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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