Press Release  | 03/19/2011

Treatment-Instead-of-Incarceration Bill Passes Legislature with Overwhelming Bi-partisan Support

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If Signed by the Governor, this Legislation will Keep Families Together, Enhance Public Safety and Save the State Millions of Dollars

Santa Fe – Last night, the New Mexico State Legislature passed the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act with overwhelming bi-partisan support. This bill proposes appropriate community-based treatment, instead of incarceration, for non-violent drug possession offenders and people with drug-related probation or parole violations. Senate Bill 321, sponsored by Senator Martinez and Representative Maestas, sailed through both the Senate and the House with a vote of 21-3 in the Senate and 41-26 in the House.

"The Legislature has given our Governor an opportunity to help New Mexico's families break the cycle of addiction and incarceration, improve public safety and save millions of dollars," said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. "This is not a partisan issue. Everyone wins."

Representative Maestas and Senator Martinez, along with support from many organizations including the Drug Policy Alliance, Young Women United, Women's Justice Project, and New Mexico Crime and Delinquency, have been working tirelessly to pass this legislation.

"This is an important piece of legislation for all New Mexicans," shares Adriann Barboa, Director of Young Women United. "We understand that substance users are our parents, our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles. SB 321 is a smart policy for stronger families and healthier communities."

Similar legislation passed by other states has proven to be a cost-effective, common-sense solution to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one. Offering treatment instead of incarceration would enhance public safety by reducing drug-related crime and preserving jail and prison space for violent offenders.

In 2007 alone, New Mexico spent 22 million dollars to incarcerate nonviolent drug possession offenders – that doesn't even include other drug offenses such as drug dealing, manufacturing or trafficking. A national study by the Justice Policy Institute shows that community-based drug treatment provides bigger crime reduction returns than prison--for every dollar spent on drug treatment in the community, a state receives $18 in benefits.

"We are thrilled for all the children of mothers struggling with substance abuse," said Sheila Lewis, Executive Director of the New Mexico's Women's Justice Project. "Incarcerating mothers with addictions leaves behind hundreds of New Mexico's babies and young children."

At the New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility in Grants, 600 women collectively leave behind 1800 dependent children under the age of 18.

People in New Mexico and nationally support a shift away from incarceration and towards treatment for drug offenders. According to a 2007 poll, 71% of New Mexican voters supported treatment instead of incarceration for people with drug addictions.

Young Women United (YWU) is a community organizing project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. YWU believes the voices and leadership of young women of color carry the power to create better communities for all people.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

Emily Kaltenbach at 505-920-5256 or Adriann Barboa at 505-831-3930

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