New Mexico’s criminal justice system is broken. With every new high profile crime, politicians propose tougher penalties. But these penalties do not deter criminals, and do nothing to help increase public safety. So who are we really helping? New Mexicans have endured decades of this broken system and it’s time for that to end. Our communities are less safe because our justice system spends too many of our precious resources on locking up low-level, non-violent offenders that pose no real risk to public safety. This has led to:
- dangerous overcrowding in our jails and prisons,
- skyrocketing costs to the taxpayer,
- clogged courts,
- overtaxed police officers, and
- insufficient funding for crime prevention programs.
Our criminal justice system also disproportionately targets people of color—even though they do not commit crimes at higher rates—and people living with mental illness, who instead of getting the treatment they need, are often locked away under conditions that exacerbate their illness. The deck is also stacked against low-income communities, whose inability to pay fines for low-level infractions trap them in a cycle of criminal justice debt and incarceration.
These problems add up to a criminal justice system that doesn’t work to make New Mexicans safer, tears families apart, and can even make our communities less safe by exacerbating existing problems.