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Bad Policies – Tragic Results

I am not in the habit of reproducing press releases word for word; however, as we all keep the family and friends of recently murdered Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy, James McGrane Jr., in our prayers, this release from the State Republican Party deserves some serious thought:

“All options have to be looked at, but (early parole) certainly compromises public safety. It just takes one person,” presciently warned Rob Perry, former Corrections Secretary, in 2003 when Governor Bill Richardson was helping to restore an early-release prisoner program.

“I am very adamant: I am not going to build any new prisons,” said Bill Richardson at the time.

And now, in 2006, sheriff’s deputy James McGrane Jr. and his family are paying the price for Bill Richardson’s unrealistic decision.

On Wednesday, Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy James McGrane Jr., 38, was gunned down during a traffic stop. The suspect, Michael Paul Astorga, was on parole after serving only six years of an eleven year sentence. He was convicted for drug trafficking, possession of a firearm and theft. Previous to those crimes, Astorga was arrested in 1993 for aggravated battery, assault with a deadly weapon and shooting at or from a motor vehicle. In 1997, he was acquitted of murdering a 27-year-old. (It turned out Astorga’s younger brother did the shooting).

Incredibly, the parole board thought it was appropriate to let Astorga out of prison three different times.

Republican State Chairman Allen Weh commented: “The parole board is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of, the Governor. It is Governor Richardson that put into place a board and a policy directed at releasing prisoners, rather than building new prisons, as the solution for New Mexico’s increasing inmate population. A governor has no bigger responsibility than insuring the public safety of our citizens. I respectfully suggest that the state’s money that Richardson wants to spend on such things as spaceports and the movie industry needs to be redirected to public safety. Regrettably it took a New Mexico law enforcement officer’s death to bring this chicken home to roost.”