ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It took nine months after Cynthia Silva allegedly drove high and killed another woman for her case to start moving forward. A year after Tannen Pierce was arrested and accused of raping a child, his case still hasn’t gone anywhere.
Those are only two of the thousands of cases in a backlog that seemingly keeps getting bigger in Bernalillo County, meaning many families are still waiting for justice. They aren’t the only ones who are frustrated.
On Monday, a new committee of state legislators and other leaders held its first of four meetings. The purpose of the committee: to discuss potential ways to reform, and speed up, the criminal justice system in New Mexico.
"In a perfect work, people get indicted within three months. They get prosecuted within six to nine months," said New Mexico Rep. Antonio Maestas, one of the bipartisan subcommittee's co-chairs. "We need swift and certain justice, and so up in Santa Fe we can create laws that make it more efficient."
Maestas said that over the course of four scheduled meetings leading up to the start of the next legislative session in early 2018, senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle will look at reform taking place all over the country.
Then, they’ll determine what would work best for New Mexico.
“Drug crimes are nine-year penalties. Violent crimes are three-year penalties. That needs to be restructured,” Maestas said. “But also looking at next month and the coming months when folks get out of prison … 95 percent of people get out of prison. What do we do with them and how do we get them back on their feet so they don’t harm our communities?”
In addition to sentencing timelines, the subcommittee also hopes to discuss funding for the courts, district attorney’s offices and several other agencies.
“If these institutions had proper funding and if APD gets fully manned, then those deadlines can and must be met,” Maestas said.
The subcommittee’s next meeting will take place Sept. 27. It’s open to the public, though a location has yet to be set.
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