New Mexico Organizations Call on Local and State Agencies to Report Race, Ethnicity Data in Drug Law Enforcement

Limitations in data collection make determining and addressing disparities difficult

August 1, 2017
Contact: Jessica Gelay, 505-573- 4422
OR Denicia Cadena, 575-202- 7571

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new report released by advocates for criminal, racial and family justice shows that people of color are overrepresented in drug arrests and bookings into the Metropolitan Detention Center relative to their respective shares in the Bernalillo County population. In contrast, White people are booked for drug violations at significantly lower rates than their share of the county population. The report, Racial and Ethnic Bias in New Mexico Drug Law Enforcement: A Summary of Preliminary Findings and Recommendations, by Young Women United, Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of New Mexico, and New Mexico Voices for Children also examines the availability and accessibility of race and ethnicity data from arrests and bookings in Bernalillo County, New Mexico. The report makes the case for improving reporting on the proportion of Indigenous, African-American, and Hispanic/Latinx people involved in the criminal justice system to gain an accurate understanding of racial and ethnic disparities.

Without comprehensive data collection, the true extent of bias in drug law enforcement against African-American, Indigenous, and Hispanic/Latinx people is hidden. The report also found that New Mexico’s case tracking system does not meet current federal guidelines for race and ethnicity data collection, and the state does not report race and ethnicity figures related to arrests to the federal government. The ongoing failure to comprehensively collect and report racial and ethnic data affects the entire criminal justice system.

Recommendations from the report:

  1. Improve data collection within New Mexico’s criminal justice system, paying special attention to racial and ethnic identifiers. Ensure arrest reporting in New Mexico meets federal guidelines for recording race and ethnicity. Support law enforcement agencies and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety in operationalizing the inclusion of these data in their record keeping. Develop data entry instructions and train officers so that race and ethnicity information are collected and reported in a uniform manner. Review and revise operating procedures for the collection of race and ethnicity data at booking and other non-arrest data collection points in the criminal justice system.
  1. Invest in evidence-based interventions at the local and state levels to reduce racially disparate treatment and overreliance on incarceration, while improving public safety throughout our communities.

Partners had the following to share:

Young Women United
“We were disappointed, but not surprised, to establish findings demonstrating that in Bernalillo County people of color are arrested and locked up in numbers far greater than their representation in the overall population of the area,” said Denicia Cadena, Policy Director at Young Women United. “Improved data collection will allow policymakers to better understand the complexities of New Mexico’s arrest and booking patterns. Together we can be more effective in increasing public safety and addressing real racial and ethnic disparities that have impacted New Mexican families for far too long.”

NM Voices for Children
“It’s known that people of all races and ethnicities use and sell drugs at about the same rates, yet our nation’s ‘war on drugs’ was clearly aimed at communities of color,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “In addition to the extraordinary injustice that has been done, the implications for families and children of color are devastating. The separation from parents caught in the criminal justice system creates an adverse childhood event for kids that has lasting implications.”

Drug Policy Alliance
“Given how much we already know about racial discrimination in drug law enforcement, New Mexico’s negligence is inexcusable,” said Jessica Gelay, Policy Manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Drug criminalization fuels racial profiling, violence against immigrants and other vulnerable groups, intrusive government surveillance, and widespread detentions and deportations.”

ACLU of New Mexico
“The negative collateral consequences of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ have been obvious for many years,” said Steven Robert Allen, Director of Public Policy at the ACLU of New Mexico. “People of color should no longer have to bear the brunt of this failed experiment.”

The report can be downloaded here