Senator Aragon to Introduce Legislation Calling for Treatment Instead of Jail for Nonviolent Drug Offenders
During the current legislative session in New Mexico, Senator Manny Aragon (D.--Bernalillo, Valencia) will introduce a new drug policy reform bill that is expected to reduce drug-related crime and save taxpayers money. The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act will provide for supervised probation and appropriate community-based treatment instead of jail for first- and second-time nonviolent drug possession offenders. "This legislation will improve the health of New Mexicans and save money," said Antionette Tellez-Humble, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Project. "We should not treat people's health issues with incarceration."
According to a recent poll conducted by Research & Polling, Inc., 67 percent of New Mexico voters believe that too many tax dollars are spent keeping nonviolent drug offenders in jail for a mandatory period of time when the money could be better spent on education and treatment. A study by the RAND Corporation found that every additional dollar invested in substance abuse treatment saves taxpayers $7.46 in societal costs (crime, violence, loss of productivity, etc.) This same study found that additional law enforcement efforts cost 15 times as much as treatment to achieve the same reduction in societal costs. In 1999, the New Mexico Corrections Department housed 5,127 inmates (not including city and county jails), of which eighty-seven percent were diagnosed with substance misuse disorders.
"I've fought this battle on the ground, and I know what works. Treatment works," said Wayne Salazar, former police chief of Espa