Increased incarceration not solution

By Anna Crook

Editor’s note: The Clovis News Journal asked area lawmakers to offer brief commentary on a subject of their choice as they head back to Santa Fe this week for a 60-day legislative session.

When I was asked to write about some of the issues we as legislators would be addressing in the upcoming session, I had to consider the many letters, phone calls, newspaper articles and conversations with constituents in trying to decide which issues to write about.

After a recent article in the CNJ regarding an increase in Curry County taxes to meet the county budget, I felt compelled to write about DWI.

The overcrowding and the cost of transporting and housing inmates in other states is costing the county, state and nation millions of dollars. The taxpayer bears the burden.

Am I an advocate of being soft on crime? The answer is NO. I am an advocate of rehabilitation versus incarceration.

Presently, we have non-violent inmates who are incarcerated. It is costing thousands of dollars to keep them incarcerated. Could those same dollars be spent on rehabilitation and teaching a trade in order they might become tax-paying citizens?

If rehabilitated, they could care for their families and relieve the state for some of the costs of social services provided to families due to the incarceration of a parent. Presently they serve their sentence, and a large percent return in a short period of time of being released — another DWI or crime committed due to the influence of drugs or alcohol.

We have a revolving-door prison system due to lack of treatment for drugs and alcohol.

I recently received a booklet entitled “The Diminishing Returns of Increased Incarceration.” Some of the policies suggested to prevent drug and alcohol abuse and save lives are:

• Preventing underage drinking

• Treating addiction

• Reducing and preventing crime

It states that 90 percent of Americans worry about underage drinking while 80 percent support treatment instead of incarceration.

Do we build more institutions to house these offenders or do we rehabilitate and make productive citizens?

Anna Crook is a Republican repesentative from Clovis. Contact her at 763-4108 or by e-mail at: anna.crook@state.nm.us