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Constitution and Criminal Justice Videos

Accidental Criminals: Why New Mexico Needs Mens Rea (criminal intent) Reform

(Albuquerque) New Mexico could make significant improvements to its criminal justice system by embracing a common-law principle called mens rea.

A new Rio Grande Foundation paper describes in detail why the New Mexico Legislature should embrace the principle of “guilty conscience” in criminal justice. As described by Roscoe Pound, the dean of Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936: “Historically, our substantive criminal law is based upon a theory of punishing the vicious will. It postulates a free agent confronted with a choice between doing right and doing wrong and choosing freely to do wrong.”

In the late 19th century, industrialization prompted the creation of regulatory authorities at the federal, state, and local levels. Over the decades, and continuing today, a myriad of rules came to govern “the environment around us, the food we eat, the drugs we take, health, transportation, and housing, among many others.”

One of the best examples of an egregious strict-liability prosecution at the federal level occurred in the Land of Enchantment. In 1996, Bobby Unser, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, went snowmobiling with a friend near Chama. A flash snowstorm blew in, and whiteout conditions caused Unser and his companion to become trapped.

Severely ill and exhausted after two days and two nights, the men found a barn with a phone and called for help. But once Unser informed the US Forest Service of the incident, he was prosecuted for entering a “wilderness” area – even though there was no proof that such a violation took place. In 1997 he was convicted and fined by US District Judge Lewis Bacock. The conviction was appealed, but ultimately Unser’s prosecution was left to stand after the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Unser’s case illustrates broader problems with the lack of a mens rea requirement. The New Mexico Legislature can take another step – as it did in 2015 with standard-setting civil asset forfeiture reforms – to reverse the tide of overcriminalization while continuing to protect those who are genuinely harmed by bad actors.

The full paper, “Accidental Criminals: Why New Mexico Needs Mens Rea Reform” is available here.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice RGF Events

Ilya Shapiro: Scalia’s legacy and the future of the US Supreme Court a big success, interview posted

Our luncheon with Ilya Shapiro on the legacy of Justice Antonin Scalia and the future of the US Supreme Court was a big success. More than 70 people showed up to hear Shapiro’s message.

You can listen to the audio of Shapiro’s interview with Bob Clark of 770KKOB AM here. Just look for the interview labeled “The Future of the US Supreme Court 5-12-16.” A few photos of the event can be found below.

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Categories
Constitution and Criminal Justice

Paul Gessing talks to Cato Institute about NM’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Success

While at a recent conference with fellow free market think tanks, I sat down with Caleb Brown of the Cato Institute to discuss New Mexico’s successful reform of the State’s civil asset asset forfeiture laws.

The podcast is just a few minutes in length and can be found below.

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ART Constitution and Criminal Justice Local Government Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues Videos

Talking Asset Forfeiture, Bus Rapid Transit, & The NM Economy on Morning Brew

Recently, Paul Gessing sat down with Dan Mayfield of the Morning Brew to discuss several issues the Foundation is working on. Specifically, we talked about an event the Foundation put on relating to civil asset forfeiture. And, while that event has come and gone, several of the issues discussed remain relevant and topical in advance of the 2016 legislative session.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Notable News Research Tax and Budget Top Issues

Free Market Think Tank Offers Criminal Justice Reform Ideas in Advance of First Criminal Justice Subcommittee Meeting

(Albuquerque) Just in time for the first meeting of the Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee, the Rio Grande Foundation is providing an update on its original, 2009 report, which arguably started the ball rolling on criminal justice reform in the Land of Enchantment.

The new report, “Criminal Justice Policy in New Mexico: Keys to Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety (Updated),” which was authored by Marc Levin, Policy Director of Right on Crime with Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, provides a variety of bi-partisan, but fiscally-conservative ideas for the Subcommittee to consider, including:

• Expanded use of drug courts;
• Introduction of courts similar to Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Drug (HOPE) Courts where offenders are ordered to treatment and must call in a number every morning to see if they have to report to the court to take a drug test. If they fail, they are jailed for several days, usually weekend jail in order to preserve employment;
• Mandatory Probation, Treatment and Work Requirements for First-Time Drug Offenders: This policy should apply only to individuals caught with small quantities of drugs that are for personal use;
• Graduated Responses for Probationers and Parolees: Research indicates this approach reduces technical revocations to prison because the swift but proportionate responses effectively lay down the law, deterring future violations;
• Performance-Based Probation Funding: Under this incentive-based approach which has not been adopted in New Mexico, probation departments receive a share of the state’s savings from less incarceration when they reduce their revocations to prison without increasing probationers’ convictions for new offenses. The probation departments are required to reinvest the additional funds in victim services, substance abuse treatment, and strategies to improve community supervision and reduce recidivism;
• Modernize Sentencing Laws: New Mexico should revise its sentencing laws to ensure prison space is prioritized for violent and dangerous offenders;
• Utilize Victim-Offender Conferencing: Conferencing is often used in property offense cases, particularly for first-time offenders, and must be chosen by both the victim and the offender, since the offender is required to take responsibility for his conduct. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King recently called for similar efforts; and
• Reduced Barriers for Nonviolent Ex-Offenders to Obtain Occupational Licenses;

Many of these reforms have been introduced with great success in other states that can provide both data and a road map for successful implementation.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Tax and Budget Videos

Marc Levin Discusses Criminal Justice Reform in New Mexico

The Rio Grande Foundation and Drug Policy Alliance recently hosted a briefing for candidates on criminal justice issues including civil asset forfeiture. Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime made the following remarks:

 

7-31-12 Marc Levin on Criminal Justice from Paul Gessing on Vimeo.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Research

Criminal Justice Policy in New Mexico: Keys to Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety

With New Mexico facing massive deficits, all options for cost savings must be on the table. Building on some of the ideas of Governor Richardson’s prison reform task force, Marc Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice, Texas Public Policy Foundation and an adjunct scholar with the Rio Grande Foundation, has created a list of reforms that would improve New Mexico’s criminal justice system, cut costs, and allow for the return of low-level, non-violent criminals to the work force so they can become tax paying, productive members of society rather than burdens on the system.

The full study is available here.

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Constitution and Criminal Justice Local Government Research Tax and Budget

The Pros of Privately-Housed Cons: New Evidence on the Cost Savings of Private Prisons

Rio Grande Foundation finds that private prisons mean big cost savings. New Mexico is in the vanguard of prison reform.
The Rio Grande Foundation has released a new study comparing the per-prisoner costs of incarceration across 46 states. Research economist Matthew Mitchell used regression analysis to isolate the factors that affect per-prisoner department of corrections spending.
He found that states with a large percentage of prisoners in private custody spent less per-prisoner than other states. States like New Mexico, for example, with forty-five percent of their prisoners under private management, spent $9,660 less per-prisoner in 2001 than non-privatized states. Given New Mexico’s prison population, that is an annual savings of over $50 million.
Other factors being equal, an increase in privately-housed prisoners was found to lower per-prisoner costs markedly. On average, states with five percent of their prisoners in private custody spent 14 percent less per-prisoner than non-privatized states. States with forty-five percent privatization, meanwhile, spent 32 percent less per-prisoner than non-privatized states.
New Mexico was one of the first states to privatize its prisons and has a higher percentage of prisoners in private custody than any other state in the union.
Mitchell’s study takes its place among a growing body of studies suggesting that private prisons are both cheaper and safer than public prisons.
Though not the focus of his research, Mitchell also found that states that enjoy right to work legislation spent $9,365 less per-prisoner in 2001 than states without such legislation. The evidence seems to suggest that if New Mexico joined the 22 other states with right to work laws, it would reduce per-prisoner spending even more.
Click here to download the full report in PDF format.