RGF president Paul Gessing recently sat down with Channel 7 KOAT to discuss the Gov.’s budget. The original interview covered a variety of issues within the budget but wound up being JUST about the law enforcement component.
While most New Mexicans, especially those in crime-plagued Albuquerque, support the hiring and retention of law enforcement, Gessing was actually referring to the fact that Gov. MLG’s budget has a “slight” increase in funding for Department of Corrections while the Legislature’s budget CUTS funding. The assertion is that New Mexico’s prison population is declining and therefore less money is needed.
It is all well and good to cut funding for corrections, but with violent crime at record levels in Albuquerque, it would seem like violent offenders should be filling up those prison cells…but perhaps the courts are not doing THEIR jobs? Either way, that conversation was left on the proverbial cutting room floor. Click on the image below for the story.
The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute recently filed briefs asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Rio Grande Foundation’s lawsuit against a Santa Fe ordinance that forces nonprofits to surrender their donors’ privacy rights whenever they support or oppose a ballot initiative. The case is just the latest in a series of cases in which donors to think tanks and nonprofits have been targeted by anti-privacy mandates nationwide.
The lawsuit began in 2017 when the Rio Grande Foundation announced its opposition to a proposal to impose a sales tax on sugared soft drinks in Santa Fe. The Foundation posted a video to its Facebook page—a video it didn’t make—that urged voters to oppose the initiative. That triggered a city ordinance that requires nonprofits that spend more than $250 supporting or opposing initiatives to turn over the names, addresses, and employment information of any donor who gave even a penny for that purpose. Even though the Foundation had not spent any money on the video, city bureaucrats decided that the video must have cost that much, and therefore that it qualified as an “in-kind donation.” It concluded that the Foundation was required to put its donors’ confidential information on a publicly accessible government list.
Goldwater took up Rio Grande’s case, filing suit to argue that stripping the Foundation’s supporters of their privacy in this way was likely to scare away donors—something lawyers call a “chilling effect” on free speech rights. And we proved at trial that when other, similar organizations, have been forced to turn over their private information, their employees and supporters have suffered intimidation and harassment. That’s not news—as the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta made clear, the risk of retaliation when people have their private information made public is a real one—and it does cause people to refrain from exercising their First Amendment rights.
But the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals threw the case out earlier this year, in a bizarre holding that said people cannot bring a “chilling effect” lawsuit unless they themselves choose not to exercise their freedom of speech. In other words, the court said that because the Rio Grande Foundation intends to speak out in the future, it’s not allowed to argue that the Santa Fe ordinance will likely scare donors into silence.
That makes no sense, because, as the Tenth Circuit itself has said in other cases, the fact that someone is willing to keep speaking despite risk of punishment doesn’t deprive that person of the right to challenge the constitutionality of punishment. For example, in a 2019 case—also from New Mexico—federal courts ruled that a professor who was retaliated against for speaking out about improprieties at her school could still sue even though she “show[ed] extraordinary persistence” and refused to be silenced.
Yet in Rio Grande’s case, the court created a new rule holding that “an element of a chilled speech injury is an actual intention not to speak,” meaning that only a person who is afraid to speak, but not afraid to sue, is allowed to bring a First Amendment lawsuit. That’s illogical—and likely to slam the courthouse doors to many people and organizations who should be allowed to defend their constitutional rights.
We urge the Supreme Court to take up this case and vindicate Rio Grande’s freedom of speech.
The Rio Grande Foundation takes donor privacy VERY seriously. We fought tooth and nail against Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s push to publicize donations to 501c3 organizations like RGF open to the public. We also litigated against the City of Santa Fe over donor privacy issues regarding work we did to defeat the soda tax a few years ago.
And, we filed an ‘amicus’ or friend of the court brief in support of donor privacy(read it here) in the Americans for Prosperity v. California case just decided by the Supreme Court. The 6-3 decision strikes a blow for privacy and free speech for the Rio Grande Foundation, our supporters, and millions of Americans.
The Rio Grande Foundation recently gained access to the transcript of a deposition on the Gov.’s decision making process relating to COVID 19 and found “the science” to be lacking. Channel 4 KOB TV’s Patrick Hayes used this information to ask the Gov.’s health advisor David Scrase some questions during the press conference this week. As you can see from the story, Scrase doesn’t exactly answer the question about “the science.”
You can see the full story below:
The following article written by the Rio Grande Foundation’s Patrick Brenner appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican on March 10, 2021. It also appeared in several other New Mexico based outlets.
Contractor-operated prisons, or so-called private prisons, have been vilified among progressives, even though their success in preparing inmates for productive engagement after their incarceration should be lauded by all social and political ideologies as part of the solution to social justice reform.
House Bill 40, which would eliminate all privately managed correctional facilities in New Mexico, has been making its way through the Legislature this session.
Last month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to end new contracts between the Department of Justice and contractor-run corrections facilities, which almost exclusively house foreign citizens convicted of federal crimes. Contractor-run correctional facilities perform a valuable service. They help control overcrowding in publicly run prisons while providing more and better rehabilitation opportunities. Typically, inmates are safer, as rates of assault were lower at contractor-run facilities than rates in publicly managed prisons.
Opened in 1998, the Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs is a contractor-managed facility operated by GEO Group on a former World War II training base. As with all correctional facilities in the United States, it is managed in compliance with standards set by the American Correctional Association. The facility was most recently reaccredited in 2015 with a perfect score.
The facility provides inmates with training, work programming, recreation and educational opportunities. GEO’s in-custody and post-release “continuum of care” programming, developed by experts in criminal justice, substance abuse, psychology and other areas, keeps residents engaged for positive change and is critical for them to be successful once they serve their sentence and to avoid reoffending.
A study from the Rand Corporation found inmates who participated in correctional education programs were 43 percent less likely to recidivate than inmates who did not. And, often, state budget cuts hit prison programming first, while private contractors have flexibility and can invest their own resources to continue to do what is best for those in their care.
While visiting another GEO Group-managed facility in New Mexico, I met residents and staff who spoke highly of their experiences with the programming offered. Many residents have struggled with substance abuse challenges and require acute counseling and rehabilitation programming to help overcome their addiction. According to the Sage Neuroscience Center, all of the top 10 causes of death in New Mexico can be at least partially attributed to drug and alcohol abuse.
Program residents must complete the Residential Drug Abuse Program as part of their sentence. With new executive orders underway and the threat of HB 40, these programs could be shut down, potentially forcing these individuals into a jailhouse general population where they would not be able to get the services they need to survive and thrive after they serve their sentence. Revoking important substance abuse programs would destine many of these people to the damning cycle of ongoing drug and alcohol abuse, harming not only themselves but also their families and local communities.
In short, all contractor-operated facilities follow the same protocols policies and procedures as publicly run facilities under the New Mexico Corrections Department. Furthermore, the contractors have strict oversight of their operations that include on-site monitors, something the government facilities and the state lack.
Most importantly, as our nation shifts its corrections paradigm to highlight judicial reforms and inmate reentry, we should leverage all of the successful tools at our disposal to provide inmates with the care, attention and training they need inside facility walls — whether contractor run or publicly run — in order to be well-functioning members of society when they rejoin the public.
Continuing to wage war on contractor-run prisons doesn’t solve any problems or help inmates. If a program works, it shouldn’t matter who is managing it. By working together, we can rethink our prison system for the benefit of everyone.
KOAT recently did an excellent story detailing problems with the court-ordered agreement with the Department of Justice that the City of Albuquerque has been under for several years now.
The agreement has cost taxpayers $20 million to pay for training, equipment, staffing and a court-appointed monitor and, while it is hard to prove causation, violent crime in the City has increased by 53 percent.
Watch the full story here. Gessing appears at the end of the Story.
The Rio Grande Foundation is a staunch advocate for free speech and the ability for speech by those who want to speak without having their name and personal information spread all over the Internet and media outlets.
Dating back to our efforts against Santa Fe’s proposed (and defeated) soda and sugary drinks tax, the Foundation has been fighting against Santa Fe’s donor disclosure rule with legal representation from Arizona’s Goldwater Institute. You can read the details of the hearing and the case itself here.
The issue of free and private speech is relevant in the US Congress these days with the US Congress considering HR 1, legislation that would chill free speech.
It is almost a truism that New Mexico tends to be “high on all the bad lists and low on all the good ones.” On one major issue that is certainly not the case: policing for profit. Others know it as Civil Asset Forfeiture. The practice was banned in 2015 in New Mexico thanks to a bipartisan coalition that included the Rio Grande Foundation and the Institute for Justice(a national, libertarian, public interest law firm).
The group recently published its 3rd “Policing for Profit” report which ranks New Mexico as THE ONLY “A” rated state in the nation. Check out their video below which
In case you missed it, Albuquerque’s City Council recently punted on TWO big issues. RGF discussed both issues with KOB TV channel 4. You can watch the discussion relating to fines and even jail time for disobeying the public health order below.
And, RGF and the local business community has engaged in a the issue of mandatory paid sick leave. The Council (again) pushed the final vote to at least February 1, 2021.