New Mexico HB 564 takes aim at recidivism
HB 564 requires the NMCD to develop statewide uniformity on sanctions and incentives, which will ensure objective, consistent, proportionate responses and allow officers more discretion by distinguishing between high- and low-risk offenders. Research has shown positive reinforcements and incentives help reduce recidivism as much as or more than a sanctions-only approach. Of course, all violations are still subject to revocation.
SECTION 10. A new section of the Probation and Parole Act is enacted to read: “INCENTIVES–SANCTIONS FOR TECHNICAL VIOLATIONS.– A. The corrections department shall create, maintain and fully implement an incentives and sanctions system to guide responses to negative and positive behavior by probationers and parolees under supervision by the department. The system shall provide for graduated responses to technical violations of supervision conditions, in a swift, certain and proportional manner, and include guidance and procedures to determine when and how to: (1) request a warrant; (2) initiate a hearing; and (3) seek departmental approval to use custodial interventions.”
House Bill 564 creates two new sections of the Probation and Parole Act, concerning incentives and sanctions for technical violations of probation or parole and technical violation hearings. The incentives and sanctions system is to provide for graduated responses to technical violations of supervision conditions. Under the system, a probation or parole officer who reasonably believes that a parolee has committed a technical violation that requires a sanction shall consult the incentives and sanctions system to determine the appropriate response and impose a non-detention sanction. Graduated sanctions for technical violations may include three day or seven day detention in a county jail or other place of detention, which time shall be counted as time served under the sentence. Under the new language, if the probation or parole officer seeks to impose detention for a technical violation, the officer shall review the violation and proposed detention with a supervisor; House Bill 564 lays out the mechanism for seeking a waiver from the probationer or parolee for the detention, and a review process if the waiver is rejected.
LOPD states “while it is impossible to calculate at the outset what savings House Bill 564 might bring to the Law Offices of the Public Defender (LOPD), it is highly likely the bill would have a positive fiscal impact on LOPD by reducing the expenditure of attorney resources on probation violation hearings because many of the violations that presently require hearings and potentially heavy sanctions would be covered by House Bill 564’s technical violation program. This would better assist LOPD in reducing it present caseload because LOPD represents a substantial number of cases based wholly on probation violations. Therefore, in the long run, House Bill 564 is likely to reduce costs to LOPD and New Mexico.”
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The letter from Maestas and Chasey states that HB 564 would fight rising recidivism by “getting a better handle on prison admissions caused by revocations from supervision, particularly for less serious, so-called technical violations.” Specifically, Maestas and Chasey say, HB 564 would allow for a probation officer to sanction someone on probation to local jail for 90 days after a technical violation rather than revoke them to prison, where the average stay for revocations is 11 months.
According to the LFC report, parole revocations for technical violations related to drug use made up half the recidivism rate and 67 percent of parolees violate conditions at least once, 75 percent of which are for failed drug tests and missed appointments.
“Everyone misses appointments,” the letter states. “Probationers should not return to prison for a missed appointment or one failed drug test.”
In total, 43 percent of parolees are revoked and sent back to prison after an average of 2.7 violations over 372 days, according to the LFC.
Program Evaluation: New Mexico Corrections Department—Status of Programs to Reduce Recidivism and Oversight of Medical Services
Best practices for the response to supervision violations suggest that risk-based supervision monitoring, linked to effective treatment, as well as swift and certain responses to behavior, increase success and result in fewer technical violations and new crimes. Violations of supervision conditions are often part of the offender change process, so departments need tools and evidence-based strategies for appropriately dealing with violations when they occur. Since technical violations do not involve new criminal activity, parole departments can exercise significant discretion to address technical violations by developing structured decision-making processes that use a range of intermediate sanctions and evidence-based responses.
The California Department of Corrections Adult Parole Operations uses a reward and sanction matrix in response to technical violations or positive behavior. These responses enhance the offender’s motivation to initiate and continue with positive behavior change that results in reduced recidivism and increased public safety. Some examples of rewards include affirmation, reduced drug testing requirement, reduction in frequency of office visits, gift cards, and bus passes. A sanction that California uses for technical violations is “flash incarceration,” a confinement period of up to 10 days. This addresses the swiftness and certainty component of deterrence. Responses must be applied consistently in order for the swiftness and certainty principles to be most effective in deterring future unwanted behaviors. Every violation should be met with a graduated sanction, which eliminates the perception by the offender that some violations are ignored or excused.
Current NMCD policy allows for graduated sanctions in the Sanctioned Parole Violator Program (SPVP), but it has not been used for almost three years. A department wide email sent out in February of 2016, directed PPD staff to suspend the SPVP program for a minimum period of three months pending review. This meant the Adult Parole Board would no longer accept referrals for the SPVP program from PPD. As of October of 2018 the SPVP program is still not being utilized. Table 3 compares the graduated sanctions of the NMCD SPVP program with the Bernalillo county 2nd judicial district courts’ STEPS program.