Governor Vetoes Treatment-Instead-of-Incarceration Bill

Press Release April 7, 2011
Media Contact

Emily Kaltenbach at 505-920-5256 or Adriann Barboa at 505-379-1962</p>

Santa Fe – Today, Governor Martinez vetoed the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act that was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support.  If signed, the bill would have offered appropriate community-based treatment, instead of incarceration, for non-violent drug possession offenders and people with drug-related probation or parole violations.

Thousands of New Mexicans called and emailed the Governor, telling their stories and asking her to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one.

"I know what it means to have an incarcerated parent. I know how it feels to have a parent that is sick and only gets time in jail instead of treatment," stated Avicra Luckey, a family member impacted by substance use. "Governor Martinez could have, and should have signed this bill to help families like mine."

Cynthia Sandia, from Albuquerque stated, "Governor Martinez has done our families wrong.  Treatment gives someone a second chance, a chance to heal. Living through substance use, we suffer and our families suffer. If someone is ready and willing to go through treatment, they deserve a shot at life, and support so they don't go back to the old ways."

With the stroke of a pen, Martinez Administration painted a bleak future for New Mexico's families facing substance use.

"It is a disappointing day when a bill that overwhelming passed by our bi-partisan legislature and was widely supported by New Mexicans, is vetoed," states Adriann Barboa, Director of Young Women United.

Similar legislation passed by other states has proven to be a cost-effective and frees up resources so the criminal justice system can more effectively deal with serious violent crime.

In 2007 alone, New Mexico spent 22 million dollars to incarcerate nonviolent drug possession offenders – that doesn’t even include other drug offenses such as drug dealing, manufacturing or trafficking.  A national study by the Justice Policy Institute shows that community-based drug treatment provides bigger crime reduction returns than prison–for every dollar spent on drug treatment in the community, a state receives $18 in benefits.

People in New Mexico and nationally support a shift away from incarceration and towards treatment for drug offenders.  According to a 2007 poll, 71% of New Mexican voters supported treatment instead of incarceration for people with drug addictions.

"The Martinez Administration's decision to veto this bill further criminalizes people living with a disease," said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Sadly, the Administration sent us a clear message — they do not see a brighter future for us, after all."

Young Women United (YWU) is a community organizing project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. YWU believes the voices and leadership of young women of color carry the power to create better communities for all people.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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