As the 2023 legislative session begins to take off, I’m guessing we’ll hear some angry rhetoric about getting tough on crime.
I personally like to be tough on crime prevention. I prefer laws that stop crimes before they happen.
Increasing prison sentences, for example, does not prevent anyone from committing a violent crime. So says the US Department of Justice, according to the Office of Justice Programs. Or, as analyzed by the Legislative Finance Committee, “the reality of the punishment is a more effective deterrent to criminal behavior than the severity of the punishment.”
Jail is the only way to protect the public from other criminals, but it often destroys lives and costs us a lot of taxes. Before we look for other opportunities to show how tough we are, let’s look at what we did in 2022.
In 2022 lawmakers introduced several bills related to fraud. Several items were combined into one omnibus bill, House Bill 68, which passed. Other features of this bill:
Creates five new offences, including a charge of operating a chop shop. A chop shop is a place where stolen cars are dismantled so that the parts can be sold or used to make other stolen cars. Making it a crime to work one can be an effective deterrent because it is a crime that requires thought and planning.
The law makes the penalties for a few crimes more severe, including those for crimes involving the use of firearms.
It prohibits the use of crime prevention tactics called “gay panic” or “trans panic.” This is what the defendant said he believed they had been told in a non-threatening, non-violent manner by a person who was suspected or identified as gay, bisexual, or transgender.
It offers a number of benefits to law enforcement, which can help make law enforcement work more efficient.
It creates new jurisdictions in three jurisdictions, possibly allowing cases to move faster in these jurisdictions. The counties are the second (Bernalillo County); 5th (Chaves, Eddy and Lea); and the 13th (Cibola, Sandoval, Valencia).
The bill also contains provisions that may lead to crime prevention, but it seems that the results will take some time to show.
Creates the Violence Intervention Program Act, creating a fund to be used by the Department of Health. DOH may provide assistance for violence intervention programs to eligible government agencies, districts, municipalities, or tribal governments.
The agencies must develop implementation plans, apply for awards and get the programs moving before crime can be prevented. Ultimately these local programs may be exactly what we need to save lives while encouraging young people into productive lifestyles. The problem is that, as explained here, getting them started is slow and tedious.
Accordingly, the law expands the options available to Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils, which we must have in all judicial districts. This extension enables these councils to apply for Crime Reduction Grants for a number of purposes. Another proposed method of crime prevention is to organize access to assistance for people released from prison; in plain language, to help people who leave prison not to return to crime. Again, government measures are needed before a person can be helped.
In 2022 we did not stop the proposed law to solve the confusion about who gets out of prison while awaiting trial and who doesn’t.
And we lost an opportunity to pass a more realistic way to prevent other crimes before they have a chance to happen. There was a law that adults were responsible for keeping their guns away from minors. I hope we will consider that again.
Contact Merilee Dannemann through www.triplespacedagain.com.
This article originally appeared on the Carlsbad Current-Argus: Examining our progress in criminal law