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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: May 12, 2003
Volume 38, Number 20

Sentencing Commission established at ISR

By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

The New Mexico Sentencing Commission, a state agency, has been established at the UNM Institute for Social Research (ISR) to study, compile and release data on the effects of criminal sentencing on state resources, programs and citizens.

Governor Bill Richardson recently signed into law House Bill 510, which states the commission will replace the ISR’s New Mexico Criminal and Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council (CJJCC), but will fulfill and expand its activities.

In addition to conducting research and analysis on criminal adult and juvenile justice issues, the commission will report annually to the state legislature on the fiscal and societal impact of sentencing and the need for further reforms.

“Forming the New Mexico Sentencing Commission is a move to conform with the rest of the country. There is a call for sentencing structure to be more rational. The commission will make recommendations to the legislature based on research data and what is proven to work,” said Michael Hall, the commission’s executive director.

The commission will also review proposed legislation that would create a new criminal offense or change a classification or range in sentence.

New Mexico joins 20 states complying with the American Law Institute’s request that states form sentencing commissions.

The 23-member bipartisan commission has representation from corrections, law enforcement, juvenile, legal, judicial and legislative agencies.

“Being located at UNM gives us access to research tools,” Hall said, noting that graduate and undergraduate students take part in research projects.

“The student staff has a unique opportunity to work on research projects that have a direct impact on the state’s criminal and juvenile justice systems.  These are real-world projects, not just classroom exercises,” said Stephen Colby Phillips, UNM senior.

The CJJCC existed since 1994. Nearly a decade’s worth of research, including data and analysis on prison statistics, women inmates, juvenile justice, treatment options and more, is available in print and online. The New Mexico Criminal Justice Resource Directory compiled in 2002 offers a comprehensive list of local, state, tribal and federal criminal and juvenile justice contacts.

The CJJCC was called upon several weeks into the recent legislative session to create a research booklet on DWI penalties, treatment and results.

“Copies were distributed to all the legislators and the research was used to amend and revise the current DWI laws. It had a big impact,” Hall said.

The New Mexico Sentencing Commission will be officially operational July 1. For more information on its initiatives, call 277-3494 or visit www.cjjcc.org.