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.”

Home » Journal North » Journal North Recent News » Potential cost of ban on private prisons draws fire


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

taboola desktop

1
NM's methane rule unfair on low-producing wells
From the newspaper
Family operators will have to cap ... Family operators will have to cap hundreds of low-emitting sites early
2
Editorial: Vo-tech, welfare reform can fix our dismal worker ...
Editorials
New Mexico is in an economic ... New Mexico is in an economic rut.    It's not due to a shortage of jobs. More t ...
3
Our military veterans deserve a leg up into federal ...
From the newspaper
Let's make the most of their ... Let's make the most of their valuable skills, perspective and diversity
4
Congress invests in science and technology of future
From the newspaper
As the final days of summer ... As the final days of summer wean off their last few minutes of sunlight, kids revive their calculato ...
5
Tips to start coming back from the pandemic's isolation
From the newspaper
Wondering about the social effects of ... Wondering about the social effects of COVID-19 restrictions such as limiting gatherings, orders clos ...
6
Ethics questioned as cannabis regulators join the private sector
ABQnews Seeker
Some are unsure if the state's ... Some are unsure if the state's 'revolving door' policy indeed curbs conflicts of interest
7
County's cool with casitas
ABQnews Seeker
Bernalillo County is ready for a ... Bernalillo County is ready for a new kind of tiny home. Meanwhile, county voters in November will have their say on $40.5M worth of ...
8
Couy Griffin back in court to fight for his ...
ABQnews Seeker
Lawsuit contends that his role on ... Lawsuit contends that his role on Jan. 6 violated the 14th Amendment
9
There are many options for keeping hummingbirds happy
Arts
The first on my list of ... The first on my list of tried and true attractions will be Agastache. I know it as licorice mint hyssop.