NM Senate Passes Ban On Life Sentences For Juvenile Offenders
The New Mexico Senate has passed a bill banning life sentences without parole for juvenile first-degree murder offenders.
Dubbed the Second Chance bill, the legislation was passed on a 23-15 party line vote but not after an emotional at-times two hour debate.
Half of the states in the U.S. ban lifetime sentences for juvenile offenders. The New Mexico law would make all juvenile offenders eligible for parole after 15 years.
Opponents say that provision makes it one of the most lenient in the country.
Republican Senator Gregg Schmedes says that’s not enough of a punishment for first-degree murder.
“So we have to have some sort of semblance of justice and I just don’t hear that from the other side,” he said. “What is the interest in maintaining justice for our society?”
But supporters say it only gives the option of release to the parole board that can still keep potentially violent offenders in custody.
Bill sponsor Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez says they are not automatically releasing anyone after 15 years, just that they’ll get a parole hearing.
“At which time the parole board will consider all of the legal factors to be considered and make the decision about whether there should be a release of this individual.”
The bill now heads over to the House for consideration.