1. NEW MEXICO PRISONS AND JAILS
Most other states have experienced drops in both crime rates and the size of their prison populations. New Mexico is one of the few states where our crime rates have gone up while our prison population continues to grow. At the same time, inmates in New Mexico face rampant abuses in the use of solitary confinement, the denial of adequate medical treatment, and a lack of programming/services in New Mexico’s jails and prisons, making it difficult for them to transition to life after prison.
Q: What do you believe is the role and purpose of New Mexico prisons and jails? What, if anything, would you do differently when it comes to managing these facilities? If a jail or prison were forced to close or threatening to close, what would you do to facilitate job programs that aren’t related to corrections?
SP: New Mexico is a state in crisis. From high unemployment, mental health issues, to crime rates, the State is in desperate need of improvement. As Governor, I will work not only to bring back economic opportunity to build pathways to prosperity and growth for every community. The State must also address the desperate need for improved and stable mental health services to assist those in need.
Q: Do you support legislation, such as decriminalization of drugs, which would reduce the inmate population?
SP: No. New Mexico has one of the worst addiction and mental health problems in the nation. Decriminalization of recreational drugs is not the answer. Providing assistance and opportunity is by far the better path to improving our State.
2. EXECUTIVE ACTION
Our current governor has embraced an approach to public safety that reflects a tough-on-crime attitude that was popular in the 1980s and 1990s and helped lead to the mass incarceration crisis currently affecting our nation. As the new governor, you would have broad authority to shape agencies and policy at the state level.
Q: What is your administrative approach to criminal justice reform, particularly in light of rising crime rates?
SP: It is a combination of economic growth, providing opportunity, and access to support services. Too often, our family, friends, and neighbors are losing their way. I believe in people and their desire to succeed. As Governor, I will work to provide all New Mexicans with employment opportunities that will allow them to succeed. We must again, also focus on the growing mental health crisis and ensure our State has the measures in place to assist those in need.
Q: What alternate policy approaches to public safety do you favor that move beyond the outdated hyper-punitive strategies that have led to overcrowded prisons with little corresponding reduction in crime?
SP: Community engagement and opportunity. Our communities must be working together to grow stronger and more stable. We need to work with our neighbors to provide opportunity and alternative paths to crime. For those who commit crimes, we must be committed to helping them achieve after serving their time. We cannot afford to create career criminals. It does not serve the State and it does not serve its residents. The State, as a community, can work to solve many of the problems facing our State.
3. EVIDENCE BASED STRATEGIES
Criminal justice policy decisions are often made by well-meaning policymakers in reaction to a tragic situation. Unfortunately, this means many policies are reactionary and may have unintended consequences. Those closest to the problem, such as victims, their families, and formerly incarcerated individuals, are closest to the solution, but are often forgotten or excluded from policymaking.
Q: What would you do to empower directly impacted individuals, families, and communities to have a voice in criminal justice reform?
SP: The only way our State will improve is working as a community. We must fix the hearts and minds of those that wish to do others harm. Solely acting to address a situation after it has occurred will do little to prevent or abate new challenges from arising.
Q: How would you ensure that policy decisions are evidence based and data driven, rather than subject to the whims of the public?
SP: As a businessman, I answer this as I answer any question. Place people around you who can see the issue at hand, and work analytically to develop practical and realistic solutions to the problem at hand. As I have done my entire career, I will work as Governor to make the right decision, not the easy one.
Earlier this year, New Mexico’s broken parole system received national attention (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2018-01-27/hundreds-of-new-mexico-inmates-held-past-parole-date).
Q: What would you do as governor to fix these issues?
SP: The government must be held accountable for its actions. The failures within the Corrections Department and any other State agency must be reviewed and reformed. One options for the Corrections Department is working to modernize the information system for the Department to have more accurate tracking of inmate incarceration time and release dates
Q: Do you support legislation addressing problems with parole, such as former SB 216 Parole Board Procedures and SB 116 Medical/Geriatric Parole?
SP: I do not support SB 216 or SB 116, but I do support addressing the State’s failures within the current parole system.
New Mexico is one of only a handful of states that do not allow criminal records expungement or sealing. Having a criminal record, from a simple arrest to a felony conviction, is often a barrier to employment, safe housing, education, and a myriad of other collateral consequences.
Q: Do you support second chances for people with justice system involvement, and if so, what would you do as governor to provide second chances?
SP: Everyone deserves a chance to succeed. As governor, I will work to provide opportunities for all New Mexicans. You cannot tell someone they need to get a job then put barriers in front of them. The data is pretty convincing that former criminals who have steady employment have a significantly lower rate of recidivism.
Q: Do you support legislation that would help people move on with their lives and support their families, such as expungement/sealing of criminal records, Fair Chance Hiring (“Ban the Box”, and the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act?
SP: I support every New Mexican having an opportunity to succeed. You cannot blanket seal all criminal records. One obvious example is repeat child predators cannot be permitted back into situations that permit a repeat of their crimes.
According to the New Mexico Sentencing Commission, a significant portion of inmates in New Mexico are incarcerated on charges of simple possession of drugs for personal use. By any measure, the War on Drugs has been a failure because incarceration by itself does nothing to address issues of addiction and dependency and punitive approaches to problematic drug use have devastated communities of color across the United States.
Q: What would you do as governor to address the lack of services available for people in New Mexico, particularly low-income families, which have loved ones struggling with addiction?
SP: As a State, we must work to address the horrific addiction problem our communities are facing. The State must be ready to assist those in most need with rehabilitation services, and we must be better at leveraging the federal opportunities that are available to help support and coordinate these facilities working in tandem with State led programs
Q: Do you support legislation that would reduce or eliminate the penalty for simple possession of a controlled substance? Do you support alternatives to incarceration and prosecution, such as the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program?
SP: Addiction is a systemic problem in New Mexico. As a State, we must address this problem head on, while also ensure our communities are safe.
7. PRETRIAL DETENTION
New Mexico voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment stipulating that an inability to pay cannot be the sole reason for detaining an individual. Now that the new Supreme Court bail rules have gone into effect, many people are released to pretrial services and may be required to pay for drug testing, GPS monitoring, counseling, and other conditions of release.
Q: What would you do as governor to balance individual rights of accused (not convicted) individuals with the safety of the community?
SP: The Constitution clearly protects an individual’s right to innocent until proven guilty. When risk to public safety is not present, this right should be protected.
Q: Do you support the bail amendment and the Supreme Court Rules? If not, how would you seek to change them?
SP: Modification are needed to the rules as currently written. The State must protect the Constitutional rights or all New Mexicans, while also acting in the interest of public safety and security.
8. ADDRESSING UNDERLYING CAUSES
Many states have implemented criminal justice reform and seen crime rates go down. New Mexico is somewhat unique because crime has been rising for many years and several recent justice reforms, such as bail reform, have not reversed the trend.
Q: Why do you believe New Mexico has struggled with crime rates over the past decade?
SP: As stated earlier, our State is in crisis. We must work to create jobs, improve our mental health assistance, and fix the addictions that are crippling so many.
Q: What would you do as governor to invest in proven, but long-term, solutions to crime (i.e., unemployment, housing, education, behavioral health, and substance abuse treatment)?
SP: New Mexico must expand its economic base. Our unemployment and lack of job availability is far too high. This first and foremost will provide opportunity and alternatives to crime. Additionally, the State must continue to work to modernize low-income housing and capitalize off of the federal programs that assist in the creation and management of these critical housing options. And, the State must restart and expand the behavior health services that have been absent from New Mexico for the last 6 years.
9. POLICE AND BORDER MILITARIZATION
Surveillance and military technologies have been used to intimidate and oppress certain communities more than others. Many cities and some states have introduced legislation aimed at ensuring residents are empowered to decide if and how surveillance and military technologies are used by law enforcement in their communities.
Q: Would you support state-wide legislation that maximizes the public’s influence over whether or not police can acquire or deploy military and surveillance equipment? If so, what is your vision?
SP: No. I do believe the correct balance needs to be struck on this issue, though. In Congress, I have expressed deep concern with the military transfer programs. Law enforcement must have access to the tools and resources, such as modern radios, they need to achieve their goals of keeping our community safe. They do not need military grade weapons or armor, they need improved training.
Q: What other measures would you take to protect the public against civil rights and liberties violations that so often occur alongside the increased use of highly sophisticated surveillance and military technologies?
SP: The Constitution is quite clear about the American people’s right to privacy. We must respect and defend these rights. As Governor, I will work to safeguard the rule of law and Constitutional protections for all. New technologies must not be permitted to erode Constitutional rights. Indeed new technologies must not be an excuse for government inaction on creating legislation, either.