Judge Be­navidez is a last, best hope for many

Com­mis­sion should re­con­sider its neg­a­tive rec­om­men­da­tion

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - BY ANN EVERSOLE AL­BU­QUERQUE RES­I­DENT

It was with tremen­dous shock and dis­may that I read of the New Mex­ico Ju­di­cial Per­for­mance Eval­u­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tion to not re­tain (Met­ro­pol­i­tan Court Chief) Judge Ed­ward Be­navidez.

He saved my daugh­ter’s life and those of many, many oth­ers. Re­cov­ery Court, which he over­sees, is a last chance for those who have given up, fac­ing in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cles that in­clude ad­dic­tion, crim­i­nal charges, home­less­ness, poverty and sep­a­ra­tion from fam­ily mem­bers. When all seems lost, in steps Judge Be­navidez, who, for the first time for many, is some­one who re­ally lis­tens to their story and ex­tends hope.

He and my daugh­ter’s pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer took time to meet in his cham­bers for over an hour late on a Fri­day af­ter­noon to get to the root of my daugh­ter’s prob­lem. He makes it crys­tal clear that when­ever some­one misses a re­quired coun­sel­ing ses­sion/court ap­pear­ance/ ap­point­ment or suf­fers a re­lapse, they are to call him or their pa­role of­fi­cer to check in. This is sheer re­lief for those who pre­vi­ously went back to jail for such lapses and had come to see jail as a re­volv­ing door and a place they’d just end up in. He and his staff pro­vide sup­port and a wide ar­ray of re­sources.

Sud­denly, what seemed out of reach for many in his court be­comes at­tain­able, such as try­ing new things like school or a ca­reer that has eluded them. It was a turn­ing point for my daugh­ter, who hit rock bot­tom, but is now thriv­ing, do­ing well in school and re­united with our fam­ily. Some­one else in the pro­gram was sep­a­rated from her fam­ily, liv­ing in a bro­ken-down black van in the mid­dle of sum­mer with her dog, show­er­ing at a truck stop and bus­ing to all her re­quired court com­mit­ments. She grad­u­ated from Re­cov­ery Court, is a val­ued em­ployee at where she has worked for the past year, lives in an apart­ment and is re­united with her fam­ily.

There are count­less other in­spir­ing tales of suc­cess. The re­cidi­vism rate is un­der 5 per­cent and drop­ping. Mir­a­cles still hap­pen. One has only to at­tend his Re­cov­ery Court to wit­ness this. He is just, yet mer­ci­ful and em­pa­thetic, while still ad­her­ing to the law. We and count­less oth­ers are eter­nally grate­ful to Judge Be­navidez. His name is men­tioned with re­spect and pro­found grat­i­tude. He has given back to us our fam­ily mem­bers, ex­tended hope where there was none, and changed our lives for­ever. I hope the com­mis­sion re­con­sid­ers its rec­om­men­da­tion.

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