New Mexico’s “TOUGH ON CRIME” Laws: Are They Really Keeping Us Safe?


According to the ACLU, New Mexico legislators have been introducing the same “tough on crime” laws year after year, yet they aren’t making our communities any safer. Instead, they are separating families and creating cycles of poverty and trauma.

These policies are not only destructive, but they also lack imagination and creativity. If punitive laws were the solution, New Mexico would be one of the most secure locations to live in the United States.

The Trauma of Incarceration: How Jail and Prison Conditions Impact Mental Health

Jail and prison conditions are deliberately cruel and inhumane. The ACLU of New Mexico has documented horrendous examples of abuse, such as medical negligence, sexual assault, and discrimination based on color, gender, and disability. This trauma causes long-term psychological harm, making it difficult for people to reintegrate into society and care for their families after being released. According to research, spending time in prison increases the probability of reoffending because of the trauma it causes.

Breaking the Cycle: How Incarceration Affects Kids and Families

Incarceration has terrible effects on children and families. According to a 2016 research, 10% of New Mexico’s child population had at least one jailed parent. This can result in poverty, homelessness, and substance misuse. Legislation that increases incarceration rates will disproportionately damage children of color, whose parents are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned.

The Cost of Incarceration: How Families Suffer Financially When a Loved One is in Prison

Incarcerated persons struggle to afford basic essentials like soap and deodorant, and their families frequently shoulder the financial burden of court penalties and conviction-related expenditures. Women are disproportionately affected, with 83% of family members responsible for covering these costs. Former convicts have significant challenges in getting job and housing following their release due to legal constraints and stigma.

Investing in diversion programs: A path to reducing recidivism and keeping families together.

Rather than squandering millions of dollars on incarceration, we may address the root reasons of criminal behavior through diversion programs that offer case management, drug and alcohol treatment, and trauma-informed therapy. These initiatives are cost-effective and have been shown to reduce recidivism. Investing in these initiatives will help to keep families together while also improving public safety.

Final Words

New Mexico’s “tough on crime” legislation has failed to increase safety, instead causing trauma, poverty, and family breakup. The harsh prison conditions and financial constraints on families compound the problems. Investing in diversion programs that offer case management, treatment, and therapy can help minimize recidivism and keep families together. A move toward these compassionate solutions is critical for a safer and more equitable community.

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