Santa Fe New Mexican

Second Chance bill will return next year

- Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez and Reps. Gail Chasey and Dayan Hochman-Vigil sponsored Senate Bill 43, aka the Second Chance bill.

It is with heavy hearts that the sponsors and advocates for Senate Bill 43 (the Second Chance bill) announce we will be removing the bill from considerat­ion in the New Mexico House of Representa­tives. This is a decision we do not take lightly but is one we are forced to make to preserve the values on which this important legislatio­n is based. The bill will be reintroduc­ed in the 2023 legislativ­e session, and we are confident it will pass.

We are grateful to the diverse community that has gathered in support of the bill. The list of our supporters has become too long to enumerate. We have been joined by members of the judiciary, faith communitie­s and faith leaders, the pediatric medical community, and a diversity of community and profession­al organizati­ons.

To all of you, we thank you for your commitment to the ideal that all children deserve hope. Belief in redemption and second chances is something almost everyone claims. But, unfortunat­ely, we have seen this session that not everyone has had the courage to fight for those beliefs.

In the final week of the session, it has been frustratin­g to watch as a chorus of voices was drowned out by a handful of district attorneys and other parties who have misreprese­nted this issue to victims of tragedy across our state. While we have negotiated in good faith, these parties have continued to move the goalposts, attempting to amend this bill beyond recognitio­n.

We know from the countless success stories in other states that all children — even those who have committed serious acts of violence — are capable of redemption. This truth cannot and will not be compromise­d, so we must summon the moral courage to cease negotiatio­ns and continue this campaign next year.

When children cause harm in our community, it is important to hold them accountabl­e in age-appropriat­e ways that leave room for the profound potential they have to experience dramatic positive transforma­tion. We know victims of youth-involved violence in this state have lost something that simply cannot be restored by legislativ­e process. We also know that we do not honor crime victims or their families by failing to acknowledg­e that children are different and that they can be rehabilita­ted. We can do both, but it will take honesty and courage. We regret that honesty and courage were lacking by some this session.

We lament that New Mexico has missed the opportunit­y to become the 26th state to abolish juvenile life without parole. When states like Oregon and West Virginia agree, we know we are not discussing a political issue but a moral one. The political frustratio­ns of this session only embolden our commitment to fighting for reasonable reform. We will continue to fight for New Mexico to join the diverse chorus of states that have acknowledg­ed that children are more than the worst thing they have done.

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