Criminal justice reform needed - Albuquerque Journal

Criminal justice reform needed

On the heels of the U.S. Congress announcing its initiative of lower drug sentencing, Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry vetoed the city council’s passage of decriminalization of marijuana.

In his veto message, the mayor was firm; it is bad public policy to enact city ordinances that preempt state and federal law.

I agree, this type of conflict in laws makes for legal chaos, and does not give citizens who want to be law abiding guidance on what is legal and illegal. It becomes confusing for law abiding citizens and sets the police up for civil rights lawsuits for either acting or failing to act against certain behaviors.

In summary, people deserve to live in order, not chaos, and citizens should have the laws that govern them be clear and consistent.

New FBI statistics confirm that Albuquerque’s crime is on the rise.

By way of example, my home has been the victim of three property crimes in just three weeks. All three acts of vandalism occurred while my children and I were at home.

These acts of vandalism are not due to a lack of marijuana reform. The rise in property crime is just one symptom of a need for total criminal justice reform.

In Albuquerque alone there are still too many victims and too many people living in fear. Change is needed. But that reform should not take a piece-meal approach.

Albuquerque enacting laws that are in conflict with state and federal laws will create a patchwork of conflicting laws. That is not effective reform. The reform must begin at the highest levels in order to avoid the problem of some activities being criminal in some places and not in others.

Whether or not marijuana is decriminalized in the city of Albuquerque will not make a dent in the overall crime rate. Marijuana is not the problem.

Some say legalization of marijuana will divert money from the enforcement of low level marijuana offenders to the prosecution of other crimes. As a taxpayer, I am willing to pay what it takes to keep communities safe. But in return for my tax dollars, I want a system that works.

As a criminal law practitioner, I haven’t seen a prosecution for possession of misdemeanor amounts of marijuana in years. Distribution of marijuana, yes, but not a prosecution for possession of less than 8 ounces of marijuana.

Marijuana cases do not burden our judicial system or waste our tax dollars. Repeat offenders and violent offenders burden our system.

Some laws enhance safety, others have little effect on safety, and some may actively diminish public safety because law enforcement dollars are being spent inefficiently. Ultimately, the question underlying every tax dollar that is spent on fighting crime ought to be: Is this making the public safer?

Our tax dollars should be spent to enhance safety and that means keeping repeat violent offenders off the streets.

Unfortunately our system is allowing violent and repeat offenders back onto our streets. That is due to a combination of new court rules, bonding changes and ineffective prosecutors.

Property crime offenders and repeat violent offenders are a real and serious threat; they threaten our safety and our children. And that is where the criminal reform focus should be.

Our lawmakers must work toward enacting strong and consistent criminal statutes that have meaning and purpose. State lawmakers must step up to the plate and pass meaningful reform that our governor is willing to sign; and the police and prosecutors must have the ability to follow through with the cases.

I do not oppose the decriminalization of low levels of marijuana possession for adult use in their own homes but let’s be honest: decriminalization of marijuana will have very little, if any, effect on crime, courts or corrections.

However, getting violent offenders off the streets will save money, reduce fears and protect citizens.

Now, that would be meaningful reform.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Criminal justice reform needed


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
Guns do kill people; NM needs smart reforms
From the newspaper
The Second Amendment states "A well-regulated ... The Second Amendment states "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a fr ...
2
COVID-19's 3 lessons learned in New Mexico
From the newspaper
Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic ... Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we all knew it. People all over the world were ...
3
NM must protect access to safe, legal abortion
From the newspaper
It comes as a shock to ... It comes as a shock to no one that abortion rights are under attack in America. In 1973, the Supreme ...
4
We shamefully abandoned science for political gain
From the newspaper
The coronavirus pandemic is an event ... The coronavirus pandemic is an event unlike any in living memory. A new pathogen swept the globe, ca ...
5
We shamefully abandoned science for political gain
From the newspaper
The coronavirus pandemic is an event ... The coronavirus pandemic is an event unlike any in living memory. A new pathogen swept the globe, ca ...
6
Additional floors will allow for UNMH's future expansion
ABQnews Seeker
New tower will house updated surgical ... New tower will house updated surgical rooms
7
Officials: Teen who killed 10 in Buffalo had studied ...
From the newspaper
Gunman in racist attack made threats ... Gunman in racist attack made threats against school last year, authorities say
8
Zanetti leaning on military lessons in governor's race
ABQnews Seeker
NM should pursue both high-, low-tech ... NM should pursue both high-, low-tech solutions to economic challenges, says GOP hopeful
9
Pets aren't toys; they're part of the family
Blogs
As COVID-19 concerns have waned, many ... As COVID-19 concerns have waned, many pets are losing their homes and humans