Mary Carmack-Altwies, a familiar face at the Los Alamos Justice Center, is running for the First Judicial District Attorney seat currently held by Marco Serna. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Mary Carmack-Altwies is running for District Attorney in the First Judicial District which includes Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Rio Arriba Counties. In an interview with the Los Alamos Reporter she said she absolutely pledges that there will be an attorney from the district attorney’s office assigned to Los Alamos.
“Ideally I would like to find someone who lives up here so that they know what’s going on in the community. They know the people, they know the police officers, and they have that little extra motivation to prosecute the Los Alamos cases and make sure justice is done,” she said.
Carmack-Altwies said there are two parts that seem like they’re different but go hand in hand.
“My biggest platform is that I want to shift the resources of the District Attorney’s office from the viewpoint of incarceration first to the viewpoint of counseling, rehabilitation and diversion first. That’s for people that are first time offenders, that are low-level offenders. It’s not for people that are committing violent, heinous or sexual crimes right away. In my experience especially as a defense attorney, most of those people that are committing those crimes now, started out being low-level small time offenders and they never got the rehabilitation or the treatment or the counseling and so it created a cycle and they never got out of the system. I would like to come up with a way to stop that cycle at the first or second time a crime is committed,” she said.
Carmack-Altwies agreed that at the time the first or second crime is committed, sometimes people don’t want that help.
“Then our only option is looking at incarceration. I want to start from, ‘You’ve made a mistake, you’ve committed a crime, let’s get you help before we start talking about ultimate punishment’,” she said.
As for people that are committing heinous crimes she wants to send them to prison.
“We’re not seeing enough of that in this district. One of the things that I’m hoping I can bring to this job and this district is not only do I have a ton of experience in trial and in managing attorneys, but I’m hoping to recruit and bring in attorneys that have experience and then use them, and me, to do training to lift the overall level of experience in our office so that we’re going to trial and we’re winning and we’re sending them away,” Carmack-Altwies said.
She promises to put the full power of the District Attorney’s office behind reducing crimes against children by working with CYFD and schools to identify at-risk children and offering early intervention services and treatment to the whole family. She said when she is District Attorney, the office will target the small percentage if people who commit the vast majority of crimes.
While she feels people have a right to own and use firearms, too many guns end up too easily in the hands of felons or domestic violence abusers.
“We will crack down on gun crime and get guns out of the hands of violent criminals,” she said.
Carmack-Altwies has a degree in Political Science from Mount Holyoke College and graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law She began her 14 years of practice in criminal law as a public defender and in private practice. She currently heads the Special Victim and Violent Crimes division in the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office.
“Having lived both sides of the criminal justice process, I have a solid plan for how to work with all parties to make northern New Mexico safer, starting with stopping crime before it occurs,” she said. “My motivation for running for District Attorney is safety in our neighborhoods for our families as well as instituting more fair and just prosecutorial practices. Addressing the root causes of crime, such as drug addiction, lack of educational and job opportunities and generational poverty are cornerstone of my agenda.”
Marco Serna, the current District Attorney is running for U.S. Congress. He was elected in 2016.