New Mexico bill would allow pregnant, breastfeeding women to avoid jail

Proposed legislation in New Mexico would allow pregnant and breastfeeding women convicted of a crime to not serve jail time if a judge chooses.

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Senate Bill 192 was introduced last year but didn’t pass. Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto is reintroducing the bill in hopes it will be successful this legislative session.

The bill would make judges take into account the pregnancy status of someone convicted of a crime, KOB-TV reported. The judge could choose to release the pregnant inmate altogether or order her to be on house arrest.

Judges could also decide if the inmate has to return to jail to make up the time.

If the woman was convicted of violent crimes, or if it wouldn’t otherwise make sense for the mother and child to be together, then the judge could sentence her using normal sentencing guidelines, said bill proponent Lyssa Knudsen.

"This isn't a, ‘Hey, get pregnant, get out of jail free card,’" Ivey-Soto said.

But opponents say the law could cause the amount of pregnant woman incarcerated to rise and add to a judge's workload, the news station reported.

Those who support the bill say women could get better neonatal health care outside of incarceration, and say breastfeeding would give health benefits to the child.

“Recidivism rates go down tremendously if young mothers have a bond with their child,” Ivey-Soto said.

If the bill becomes a law, it would go into effect July 1.

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