With New Mexico’s incredible power to incarcerate comes the responsibility to ensure people in its custody are being rehabilitated and living in safe conditions.
WHAT HB297 DOES
- Within the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD), establishes the corrections ombudsperson to:
- evaluate compliance with relevant statutes, rules, policies and procedures;
- objectively review the efficacy of operational services and rehabilitative programming;
- identify systemic issues and isolated incidents that have or may lead to neglect or abuse of an inmate, probationer, or parolee;
- identify systemic issues and isolated incidents that impact the health, safety, well-being, and working conditions of NMCD employees and contractors;
- Establishes a public and transparent rule-making process that mandates NMCD provide a sufficient window for input from the public, incarcerated people, and their families.
- Provides the ombudsperson with gold-key access to enter any facility that houses individuals committed to NMCD and allow confidential conversations with in-custody individuals and the staff. They will also be able to investigate any complaint brought to their attention by incarcerated people, staff, or through media reports.
HB297 will increase safety for people who are incarcerated and for those who work in prison facilities.
ABUSE & MISMANAGEMENT IN NEW MEXICO’S CARCERAL SYSTEM
- Throughout New Mexico, the more than 5,450 people in prison routinely suffer abuse and inadequate care in our state’s overcrowded and understaffed facilities.
- Issues of mismanagement and dysfunction have been raised by staff and incarcerated people and their families. However, it is almost impossible to resolve issues with NMCD because of the department’s almost complete lack of transparency.
- NMCD goes to great lengths to cover up dysfunction and mismanagement as evidenced by NMCD’s settling several lawsuits regarding professional standards.
NEED FOR INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT
- Incarcerated people and correctional officers routinely report that their complaints are ignored or that they face retaliation for raising concerns. An Independent objective review will give people who work and live in New Mexico prisons confidence that they can bring forward problems without fear of reprisal.
- The NMCD secretary can change policy at the stroke of a pen. For example, a recent mail policy change disrupted communication between incarcerated people and their families. This bill would demand NMCD officials engage incarcerated people and their families before instituting policy changes
The state has a responsibility to be completely transparent about how public tax dollars are being spent to take away someone’s freedom.