First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies
FROM THE OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
In the first four months of her term, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has made significant system changes to prosecution in the First District, keeping our community safer and working toward effective prosecution in all areas of the law.
Carmack-Altwies began her term by implementing groundbreaking changes to felony drug possession prosecution policies. Carmack-Altwies directed prosecutors to pursue diversion in all felony drug possession cases. This policy effectively ends felony drug possession prosecution in the First District Attorney’s Office.
Fulfilling a campaign promise, the District Attorney dramatically expanded diversion programs in the First District. First, the District Attorney, along with judicial and community partners, expanded diversion programs to include not only pre-prosecution diversion, but post-prosecution and post-sentencing diversion for non-violent offenders. Thanks to lobbying and the efforts of State Senator Leo Jaramillo, the Rio Arriba office received capital outlay funds to establish a diversion program in Rio Arriba. Also in Rio Arriba, a DWI Drug Court program was established and funded. To further reduce recidivism and improve outcomes, the District Attorney partnered with the University of New Mexico School of Law to run expungement clinics, in which experienced prosecutors help those eligible for expungement through the process, which increases access to jobs, housing, and education.
Carmack-Altwies aimed to improve outcomes for the safety of the community not only through programs that diverted non-violent offenders, but also through effective prosecution of the most serious crimes. To that end, the District Attorney instituted plea policies that target violent and prolific offenders to ensure that all plea deals secure the most justice for victims and their families. Carmack-Altwies also created a robust intake unit to focus prosecutorial resources toward the most important cases. Upon taking office, Carmack-Altwies cleared out the unsolved or unindicted homicide backlog, as well as the officer involved shooting backlog. And to ensure that all convictions were quality convictions that can stand up to further scrutiny, Carmack-Altwies is working on establishing a conviction integrity unit to examine past cases and continue to improve the quality of prosecution.
Partnering with law enforcement
In order to prosecute important cases, it is critical that the District Attorney create lasting partnerships with law enforcement agencies. The District Attorney began an extensive law enforcement training program, which helps provide tools for officers to improve evidence gathering and investigative practices to ensure conviction of those who have committed serious crimes. In addition, Carmack-Altwies has begun embedding prosecutors in law enforcement officers during specified times to help officers in real time.
Creating a better workplace
While focusing on keeping communities safe, it is also key to ensure that all working to do so have a healthy workplace in which they can thrive. Upon learning of the wages that the lowest paid workers were receiving, Carmack-Altwies immediately set upon raising the minimum wage in the office to $15/hr, which not only impacted current employees, but incoming hires, as well. The District Attorney also updated maternity and paternity leave policies for both birthing and adoptive parents to paid leave for six weeks, in addition to FMLA benefits. Carmack-Altwies also updated and expanded remote work policies to allow for more flexibility.
To help prosecutors better perform their job functions, Carmack-Altwies updated the employee manual, hiring practices, social media and media policies, and updated technology. Further, recognizing that the Rio Arriba office has been historically under-resourced, the District Attorney increased the resources and attorneys in the Rio Arriba offices and worked with the Espanola Police Department and Rio Arriba County Manager to secure more office spaces for the Rio Arriba office.
“The transition to District Attorney and the changes we have made have been incredibly rewarding,” says Carmack-Altwies. “It is my hope that we will continue this spirit of progress and in doing so, continue to gain public trust and keep the community safe.”