All 14 New Mexico district attorneys and the state’s attorney general are calling on the governor to veto a bill they believe will endanger the public.
The proposed changes to the law in House Bill 564 would change probation and parole procedures.
The DAs and the AG are concerned that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will give HB 564 her stamp of approval, which would result in victims and the general public being put at risk.
“That is our big concern with this bill—is that this just makes too many changes that are not going to protect the public,” said 5th Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce, who is also the president of the DA’s Association.
DA Luce says one of the major concerns is that some of New Mexico’s most dangerous offenders, namely murderers, will be released due to changes to the way the parole board determines if they are eligible for release after 30 years.
Another issue, she says, is stripping the discretion of probation officers and limiting the power judges have with handling defendants on probation.
These concerns and others with HB 564 brought together all 14 DAs and the AG Hector Balderas, asking for a veto. The bill has passed both the House and the Senate on party-line votes.
“We think that this is a very crucial public safety issue and so we thought it was important enough to have every district attorney in the state and the AG, so basically every chief law enforcement officer in the state has signed this letter asking the governor not to sign HB564,” John Sugg, the 12th Judicial District Attorney, said.
AG Balderas sent KRQE News 13 this statement on the veto plea:
“We gave our word to New Mexico’s families that we would keep the most violent offenders and murderers behind bars when we abolished the death penalty. We must keep our word.”
The governor’s team sent this statement, as well, on the matter:
“The governor certainly appreciates the Attorney General’s input, as well as that of the district attorneys, and is eager to do the work in the coming days and weeks to make sure there is a full understanding of the law enforcement and victims’ rights implications of this important legislation.”
Finally, Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, sent a statement to KRQE News 13 on why he believes this bill is a good idea for New Mexico. Maestas is one of the bill’s sponsors.
“It’s disappointing [sic] that the DAs Association chose to resort to fear mongering instead of participating in the legislative process. HB 564 does not change the law in any way regarding the power and authority of the parole board.
The only change is the parole board must now make written findings in is decision.
Our recidivism rate in New Mexico is horrible and makes us less safe. We must take bold steps to reduce recidivism and keep communities safer. Thus far 22 states have enacted some version of this strategy around revocations from supervision which has reduced crime as well as lowered cost. This modern language gives more discretion to probations officers and Judges to enforce restitution, hold offenders accountable and proportionately deal with those we are tasked with rehabilitating.
-Rep. Antonio Maestas
 See 35 States Reform Criminal Justice Policies Through Justice Reinvestment, Pew Public Safety Performance Project (July 11, 2018) at https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2018/07/35-states-reform-criminal-justice-policies-through-justice-reinvestment