ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – How to keep criminals from winding up behind bars again? That was the question Thursday as state lawmakers looked at ways to curb New Mexico’s crime problem.

Giving criminals a real chance to start over. “How much other unlocked potential is sitting in prison today?” says Josh Smith, Founder of the 4th Purpose Foundation.

It’s that possible potential that lawmakers and business leaders say is worth tapping into.

“After I got out I was able to start a company that grew to about 138 employees and $30 million in revenue,” Smith says.

Thursday, the Coalition for Public Safety, a Washington D.C. based group that pushes for criminal justice reform, hosted a forum where those leaders discussed three main topics for ex-convicts: occupational licensing, probation and parole, and re-entry and employment opportunities.

“The things we’ve been doing don’t necessarily work the way we want them to,” says Rep. Alonzo Baldonado.

Josh Smith started the 4th Purpose Foundation, focusing on reentry support for prisoners. He says New Mexico lawmakers should consider an investment in educational and vocational training programs inside prisons.

“How do we take and put programs in place that help individuals leave better than when they went in? Right now in our current system, many times they are leaving worse,” Smith says.

Criminal justice reform advocates like Jenna Moll say probation should not be one-size-fits-all, but instead, an investment in individualized assessments to better understand why someone commits a crime.

“If you understand what’s going on with an individual’s case you can maybe turn their trajectory around in six months rather than five years,” Moll says.

The controversial House Bill 564 was another topic. Critics feared it went too far in loosening the rules for probation and parole. The governor vetoed the bill, but lawmakers say they are working on a revised version for the 2020 session.

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