SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – When it comes to children who commit violent crimes in New Mexico, one state lawmaker thinks we need to be more careful with releasing these young offenders back into society.
Rep. Monica Youngblood (R-Albuquerque) wants to address the question of, what if a violent child criminal isn’t rehabilitated by their 21st birthday?
As state law stands now, there’s two options for sentencing a child to serve time for a serious crime.
The first is that the child is sentenced as an adult and goes to adult prison, Rep. Youngblood says. But her bill isn’t about that.
The second option, however, is that a child is treated in custody until 21 years old, then released into society without any supervision, i.e. parole or probation. The child is released whether or not he or she was successfully rehabilitated.
With House Bill 190, Rep. Youngblood thinks there should be a third option: to have a hearing when the defendant is 21 so that a judge can determine if he or she needs to be supervised when released, or if the individual should stay behind bars.
“It gives those judges the option to say, ‘Let’s check in with this individual before we just let them out,’ or ‘Let’s make sure they’re ready to be reintegrated into society without any parole or without any follow up by any agency,” Rep. Youngblood said.
Nehemiah Griego’s older sister recently voiced concern over her brother’s release when he turns 21 in March.
Griego murdered five of his family members and was sentenced as a juvenile, but Attorney General Hector Balders believes Griego needs to remain behind bars for longer.
The Appeals Court is now deciding whether a judge should hear the case.
This bill has been introduced multiple times over the last several years, but has not make it to the governor.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said a juvenile sentenced as an adult goes to juvenile jail, then is transferred to adult prison to finish their sentence.