Tougher penalties don't address the causes of crimes - Albuquerque Journal

Tougher penalties don’t address the causes of crimes

The Journal’s editorial calling for tougher criminal penalties has crystallized its primary objective: the defeat of Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature. It is premised on an emotional, misdirected response to recent, horrific tragedies. It is also designed to deflect attention from the causes of these tragedies, and inaccurately portray the motivation and character of Senate Democrats at the polls, just one month before voting begins.

They have been a target of the Journal editorial writers before, but this time the Journal’s political and personal assassination attempt has exceeded the bounds of journalistic integrity and fair comment.

New Mexico certainly has its problems with crime that call out for effective solutions. But, had the Journal chosen to think through these problems logically, and to publish a rational editorial on the subject, it would have taken data and evidence into account. A National Research Council report from 2014, for instance, drawing on significant research, concluded that lengthy prison sentences are ineffective in reducing crime:

• In Virginia, an analysis of the imposition of severe punishments for gun crimes found “the threat of enhanced sentences had no apparent deterrent effect.”

• Teens didn’t commit significantly fewer crimes after they turned 18, even though the severity of punishments increased.

• A California law requiring sentences of 25 years for three-strike offenders had minimal deterrent effect, not enough to justify the increased costs of incarceration.

The Journal claims that two horrific crimes would not have occurred if Senate Democrats had approved criminal legislation it supports. This is an absurd assertion, without merit.

How would requiring Jessica Kelley to provide her phone and address to local police have deterred her from participating in a horrific crime against a 10-year old? And the 2016 three-strikes bill the Journal supported would not have applied in the case of alleged cop-killer Andrew Romero that occurred in 2015.

Senate Democrats are not weak on crime. They are concerned with the public’s safety. If it were interested in being objective, the Journal would have conceded that Senate Democrats have in fact supported and passed numerous legislation to crack down on criminals.

During the 2016 meeting of the Legislature alone, Senate Democrats – and Michael Sanchez – voted to increase penalties for the possession, distribution and manufacture of child pornography. They toughened penalties for sexual exploitation of children by prostitution by removing the present statute’s age restrictions. And they passed legislation that allows the records of youthful offenders to be used when judges consider bail for adults. But these facts don’t fit the Journal’s narrative.

Were the editorial writers serious about deterring crime, rather than politicizing the issue, perhaps they would have opined strongly in favor of policies to reduce criminal behavior, like bold early education investments in children – greater efforts to get kids going in the right direction when they are young, before they turn to a life of crime; providing more well-trained law cops on the streets of cities to stop crime; and making substantially increased investments in substance abuse treatment and behavioral health.

On the law enforcement side, the Journal writers could have come out for far better funding for the whole range of criminal justice system inputs – the courts, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, social workers and post-release programs. For the Journal, deterring crime, simplistically, came down to two flawed bills that would not have deterred the tragedies the editorial writers blamed on Democratic legislators.

The truth is, our state already has ample laws to lock up bad guys, and keep them locked up. It’s a matter of all parts of the criminal justice system functioning in unison. If simply imposing stiffer penalties were the solution, we would have little crime in New Mexico. Truth is, stiffer penalties do not necessarily make us safer.

It is easy to grandstand on crime when you’re not the person making the tough decisions and can remain anonymous when opining.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Tougher penalties don’t address the causes of crimes


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
3 sentenced in federal court in Arbery's death
From the newspaper
BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The ... BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The white father and son convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery's fatal shoot ...
2
Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago
From the newspaper
Action appears to involve probe of ... Action appears to involve probe of classified records at residence
3
Lawmaker helped NM take first step to menstrual equity
From the newspaper
Reproductive health not a luxury; free ... Reproductive health not a luxury; free products make sense
4
BLM should prohibit venting and flaring
From the newspaper
Methane rule can help protect health ... Methane rule can help protect health and outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico
5
Lujan bill won't put pot ads on TV, radio ...
From the newspaper
Illegal marijuana poses greater risk than ... Illegal marijuana poses greater risk than regulated, legal weed
6
Editorial: Know something? Say something to solve Muslim killings
Editorials
Someone knows something. And we need ... Someone knows something. And we need them to speak up before another person is added to the recent s ...
7
UNM breaks ground on $43.3M nursing school building
Albuquerque News
Governor also announced $15M for nursing ... Governor also announced $15M for nursing programs across state
8
Judge orders lender to pay NM customers $4.3M
ABQnews Seeker
Company didn't use lawyers to file ... Company didn't use lawyers to file suits against borrowers
9
County may OK pepper spray for employee safety
ABQnews Seeker
According to proposal, county recognizes employees ... According to proposal, county recognizes employees 'may encounter unsafe circumstances during their ingress and egress to Alvarado Square'