By Steve Hansen
Former QCS Managing Editor
The state of New Mexico has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, its worst child welfare status, an oil boom going bust and is losing more big business than it is gaining.
The state Legislature has 30 days to start doing something about some of these problems, so what is it going to do?
It will not attack some of crime’s root causes, like poverty and hopelessness, or increase funds for enforcement agencies. These solutions cost money that the state does not have.
Our citizen lawmakers will do it in ways that don’t tax the budget, by toughening sentences on felonies that already carry heavy penalties and mandating courts to get tougher by limiting their options.
That’ll stop criminals — the same way tough sentences and rigid court rules have always stopped felonies: not very well.
These “solutions” only stuff prisons, our most productive crime academies. By the way, stuffed prisons cost us about $30,000 per inmate, per year.
Better-equipped law enforcers do more to stop crime than stiffer sentences. Over the long term, improving the prospects for today’s school kids and job-seekers does even more to prevent crime.
Making some crimes more criminal than they already are, however, makes the voters think the legislators are taking action. And it’s an election year for many.
Unfortunately, solutions to the economic problems that plague our state won’t bear fruit before the next election. They require years.
Stiffer prison sentences make it look like our legislators are solving a problem, and that, they’re thinking, will appeal to voters angry about fading hopes for their job prospects and their children’s futures.
Well, it will divert their attention to crime, something we all hate.
To be fair, some good legislation has been introduced in this session aimed at education and other valid issues. Resolving the state’s driver’s license/identification issue would also be worthwhile.
New Mexico’s real problems, however, run deep, and solving them requires vision, not short-term politicking.
Maybe next year, when they have 60 days, the legislators will start taking these problems seriously.
Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: