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The Dark Side of ‘Tough on Crime’: How New Mexico’s Laws Harm Families and Communities

Broken Justice: How New Mexico’s ‘Tough on Crime’ Laws Fail to Keep Families Safe

According to the ACLU, New Mexico legislators have been introducing the same old “tough on crime” policies year after year, but they’re not making our communities safer. Instead, they’re tearing families apart and perpetuating cycles of poverty and trauma. These policies are not only harmful, but they also lack imagination and ingenuity. If punitive laws were the answer, New Mexico would be one of the safest places to live in the United States.

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

Jail and prison conditions are intentionally cruel and inhumane. The ACLU of New Mexico has documented horrific cases of abuse, including medical neglect, sexual assault, and mistreatment based on race, sex, and disability. This trauma creates long-term psychological harm, making it difficult for people to get back on their feet and take care of their families after release. Research shows that spending time behind bars can actually increase the likelihood of reoffending due to the trauma it creates.

Breaking the Cycle: How Incarceration Affects Children and Families

Incarceration has devastating consequences for children and families. A 2016 study found that 10% of New Mexico’s child population had a parent who was incarcerated at some point in their lives. This can lead to poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. Creating laws that increase incarceration rates will disproportionately harm children of color, whose parents are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated.

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The Cost of Incarceration: How Families Suffer Financially When a Loved One is Behind Bars

Incarcerated people struggle to buy basic necessities like soap and deodorant, and their families often bear the financial burden of court fines and conviction-related costs. Women are disproportionately affected, with 83% of family members responsible for paying these costs. After release, former inmates face severe obstacles to finding employment and housing due to legal restrictions and stigma.

Investing in Diversion Programs: A Path to Reducing Recidivism and Keeping Families Together

Instead of wasting millions of dollars on incarceration, we can address the underlying causes of criminal behavior through diversion programs that provide services like case management, treatment for drugs and alcohol, and trauma-informed counseling. These programs are cost-effective and have been proven to reduce recidivism rates. By investing in these programs, we can keep families together and improve public safety.

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