Potential cost of ban on private prisons draws fire - Albuquerque Journal

Potential cost of ban on private prisons draws fire

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Legislation seeking to bring an end to private prisons in New Mexico is heading to a key House budget committee after a potentially expensive amendment was added by the House Judiciary Committee.

Several lawmakers expressed concerns that the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act was too “green” as written and doesn’t have a proper transition plan in place to lead New Mexico away from private prisons. There are currently four private state prisons in New Mexico.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, along with four other lawmakers, and would essentially make private prisons illegal.

Over 20 people spoke in favor of the bill during a public comment period. It ultimately passed by a 7-5 vote after a motion to table the bill failed.

“I believe this bill is not directionally wrong, but I believe it is green,” said House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia. “It is not ready to go forward, and putting something forward out of (this committee) that we all agree is problematic is troubling to me.”

One of the amendments approved by the committee would provide assistance for workers affected by the switch from private to public facilities. Specifically, it states any county or neighboring county that had 20 or more workers displaced or laid off because of the switch could get financial aid.

The amendment also creates several funds and a community advisory board that would provide assistance to the workers and communities with private prisons, Rep. Zachary Cook, R-Ruidoso, said.

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, said she supports the bill’s intent but doesn’t think New Mexico is “quite there yet,” due largely to the legislation’s potential cost.

“So my worry is that we have more inmates than prison beds, and we’re potentially giving the Corrections Department an impossible problem to continue housing these folks without anywhere to put them,” Cadena said.

She also said changes to state sentencing laws would allow the Corrections Department to safely let some people out of prison, reducing the number of beds needed, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, said he’d like to see New Mexico moving away from private prisons, but said the bill could face tough sledding in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, which plays a key role in crafting the state’s annual spending bill.

“Here’s what I’m worried about – I think it gets to appropriations, and it’s going to stop right there,” Ely said. “I don’t think we’re going to have the kind of funds that we’re talking about to be able to do this.”


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Beat the resolution rush and check out how to ...
From the newspaper
Beat the resolution rush and ... Beat the resolution rush and check out how to eat better, exercise more and engage with others
2
PNM-Avangrid merger too important for NM to cast aside
From the newspaper
Most people who are PNM customers ... Most people who are PNM customers - about 60% of the state - know that PNM is in the middl ...
3
Editorial: NM has made strides to rein in bad ...
Editorials
Three weeks after court approval of ... Three weeks after court approval of an emergency petition immediately turned Dorris Hamilton's ...
4
Preserving the beauty of the past for the future
ABQnews Seeker
Conservation work starts at historic Córdova ... Conservation work starts at historic Córdova church
5
Roundhouse bracing for debate on redistricting
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico established a citizen committee ... New Mexico established a citizen committee to hold hearings and develop recommendations
6
SF Archdiocese set to hold web auction for 427 ...
ABQnews Seeker
First sale in September generated winning ... First sale in September generated winning bids of almost $1.4M
7
Federal medical team leader touts positive experience in New ...
ABQnews Seeker
Disaster assistance group was deployed to ... Disaster assistance group was deployed to San Juan County
8
Supply and demand dictates higher teacher salaries
From the newspaper
Teachers change lives. We make their ... Teachers change lives. We make their jobs easier by ensuring students have high-quality learning mat ...
9
Library Friends' book, CD, DVD sale on Dec. 11
Arts
Friends of the Public Library will ... Friends of the Public Library will hold a used book, CD and DVD sale 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 ...