SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A couple of Democratic state lawmakers are looking to get kids who are serving life sentences eligible for parole after 15 years. However, the proposal is facing pushback. Proponents said people who’ve committed crimes when they were younger and who are still paying the price for it by staying behind bars for decades, can return to society as productive members.
“We are not monsters,” said Eric Alexander in support of the bill; Alexander said he faced time behind bars after a crime he committed when he was younger. “Yes, we made critical errors in our judgments as adolescents but we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”
In Senate Bill 247, it would make sure that juveniles sentenced anywhere from 15 years to life could be up for the possibility of parole after 15 years behind bars. In a committee meeting, people who were sentenced for crimes as a child spoke out in favor of this, adding that redemption is possible.
However, families of victims of crimes committed by juveniles spoke out in opposition saying the proposal is cruel to victims and their families. The horrific 2017 Clovis library shooting, caused by then 16-year-old Nathaniel Jouett, was referenced often. One woman who lost her mom, Kristina Carter, in that shooting spoke out strongly against the bill.
“The violence that the men, women, and children witnessed in the library that day is inescapable,” said Kristina Carter’s daughter, Evie Fisher. “We will be haunted in a prison of our own for the rest of our days because we can’t have our loved ones back.”
New Mexico has seen some other horrific cases from juveniles, like Nehemiah Griego who was only 15 years old when he killed his father, mother, and three young siblings inside their South Valley home in 2013. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The bill is now waiting to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If this gets passed, analysts believe more than 40 people who are currently serving time for crimes committed as juveniles could become eligible for parole. There is now a petition online in opposition to this legislation.