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House approves revisions to probation, parole

The Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — New Mexico would overhaul its probation and parole system — imposing graduated penalties for missed appointments rather an automatic return to custody — under a bill heading to the Senate.

The legislation, House Bill 263, passed the House on a 47-17 vote late Saturday.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat who helped craft the bill, said the proposal builds on ideas that have succeeded in Texas and other states. It would help reduce recidivism, save money and improve the state’s criminal-justice data collection, he said.

Under the current system, probation officers are often left with two choices — a verbal warning or a return to prison — when someone misses a counseling appointment or fails a drug test, Maestas said. The bill would allow for graduated penalties if someone breaks the rules but hasn’t violated the law.

“You can help people succeed and still hold them accountable,” Maestas said.

A similar bill passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who cited opposition by prosecutors.

The new version of the legislation, Maestas said, was based on negotiations with prosecutors, public defenders and others.

Republican Rep. Bill Rehm of Albuquerque called it a “fragile agreement” and urged his colleagues to avoid the temptation to try to amend the proposal.

It was approved Saturday without amendment.


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