NM House Rejects Prison Savings

New Mexico – The House has rejected a proposal that would have allowed people facing a drug possession charge in New Mexico to have the option of treatment rather than jail time.

The bill's sponsor, Democrat Rep. Antonio Maestas of Albuquerque, says the state could have saved $22 million in annual incarceration costs by approving the measure.

Maestas says the legislation would have given judges the ability to determine during a hearing if substance abuse treatment would be a viable option. The defendant would have to pay for the treatment, and the state could pursue the charges if the treatment wasn't completed.

Critics say the bill would have instituted a "catch and release program" for drug criminals.

The House defeated the bill on a 37-33 vote after a two-hour debate.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.