ABQ Launches Effort to Fix ‘Broken’ Criminal Justice System ”Albuquerque Journal

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Meet “Kelly,” a woman with signs of mental health issues whose rap sheet includes low-intensity crimes.

She becomes addicted to drugs and is arrested for breaking into a house and car theft. She is subsequently involved in a drug purchase and ends up killing an innocent passerby.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller speaks about the city’s new Metro Crime Initiative after the first session Friday. The initiative involves several agencies and organizations that meet for five sessions by September. (Adria Malcolm / For the Journal)

The city will use this hypothetical case study when it holds a series of meetings with law enforcement and community partners to address what authorities are calling a failing criminal justice system.

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“I think all of us, partners in the criminal justice system, are tired and frustrated,” Executive Director Sarita Nair said in a meeting with the Journal’s editors and reporters on Thursday. “At the same time, we’ve all been tired and frustrated long enough to be prepared to do things a little differently. The precisely thing that I think we are prepared to do differently is have them against us be part of it. What I mean by that is when something goes wrong we are all … very likely to point to another part of the criminal justice system. ”

Chief Policy Advisor Damon Martinez said the five sessions of the Albuquerque Metro Crime Initiative will follow a hypothetical case study of a woman they call “Kelly” and her interactions with the criminal justice system. . The sessions – which will be broadcast live on the City’s One Albuquerque YouTube channel – will address early intervention, detention, diversion and hearing opportunities, resources for victim advocates and offender reintegration, and career paths.

“For each session, we will have panelists and experts, and then the sessions will be guided by a facilitator who will invite the experts to comment on the case study,” Martinez said. “The floor will then be given to the panelists for questions and answers.”

Participants and co-sponsors include Mayor Tim Keller, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Attorney General Hector Balderas, Bernalillo County Attorney Raúl Torrez, Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur, Members of the Senate and the House representatives from New Mexico, members of the Albuquerque City Council, the Albuquerque Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance, the Victims Reparations Commission of New Mexico criminal acts, the Albuquerque Department of Community Safety, district and subway court officials, representatives from Central New Mexico Community College and New Mexico Mexico Highlands University, Serenity Mesa Substance Abuse Centers and Endorphin Power.

The city said the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office had been invited to participate. BCSO spokespersons did not respond to questions about the representatives’ attendance.

DPA chief Harold Medina admitted the department had a history of botched criminal investigations and said he was working to improve training.

“I say I want to know how we can be better,” Medina said. “I want people to point out and say ‘these are the processes that you need to fix in order for us to have a successful criminal justice program.’ And I want to be able to come back and say ‘this is what we’re going to work on’ … that’s one of the key aspects – everyone’s being honest and listening to the feedback they get and making the changes that they are. he must bring.

Police Chief Harold Medina speaks about the Albuquerque Subway Crime Initiative at a press conference Friday. (Adria Malcolm / For The Albuquerque Journal)

Camille Baca, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Court, said the Court welcomes the opportunity “to work alongside long-standing judicial partners to assess and improve the systems in place and to actively engage with the community” .

For his part, Baur said he hoped the effort “will help resolve the deep-rooted social issues that are surfacing in the criminal justice system” and that he believes the public defender’s law firms “can bring a unique and important perspective to this. conversation. ”

The sessions started on Friday and will end in September, when the city hopes the group has developed a list of things they need to do, who is going to work on them, and when they are going to be done.

Keller said the plan was to present the list to lawmakers so that they could all support each other by asking for additional funding.

“Our goal is not a long report,” Keller said. “Our goal is not a study. Our goal is to say ‘OK, here are a few things that we are going to do in each department that will advance the fight against crime in our criminal justice system.’ ”

Several years ago, following the murder of Rio Rancho Police Department officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner, Balderas’s office wrote a report that they said presented a “holistic” approach to how systemic gaps in intervention and prevention led Benner’s killer to be released from prison.

“The recommendations went nowhere …” said Balderas. “But I think what I’m going to convey – and I appreciate the mayor’s leadership on this – is that in addition to this transformational conversation, there should be specific recommendations. Where we have failed in the past, these are not independent recommendations, we do not have an interdependent strategy for accountability for prevention and harm reduction.

Over the past two years, the Keller administration has unveiled other initiatives to tackle crime that involve early intervention and partnership with other agencies.

The Violence Response Program, which was introduced at the end of 2019, involves a team that visits those affected by gun violence in order to put them in touch with resources or warn them that they may be facing to serious legal consequences or be injured or killed if they continue to engage in violence. . The program also includes a list of “Metro 15” offenders compiled by the DPA, the 2nd Judicial District Attorney and the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance.

Nair said these previous initiatives have worked and because of this, the administration has some optimism that “applying these strategies to the wider system will be productive.”

“These are all kinds of small steps towards what we hope is to take this interagency approach to the larger systemic issues. ”

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