ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Around 2,600 ex-convicts accused of violating their parole or probation in New Mexico were captured last year thanks to an aggressive new team tapped with finding fugitives, state officials said.
The Department of Corrections said last week that the 2,615 absconders caught in 2014 may be the largest number apprehended in a single year.
However, state officials say around 1,700 absconders in New Mexico still are the run.
Among those sought by state authorities is Timothy Mims. The 26-year-old pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 2013 and was sentenced to a year and a half of probation.
But court records show that Mims violated his terms of probation for a drug violation less than three months after his sentencing in Albuquerque District Court.
His mug shot is on a poster of New Mexico's most wanted, which is circulated around the state.
Under New Mexico law, the punishment for apprehended absconders is determined by the State Parole Board and the courts.
Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said the absconder apprehension project is part of a larger effort at reforming the department. He said the apprehension unit seeks to go after the state's most violent fugitives.
Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said the capture of so many absconders helps with public safety in the state. "These people ... aren't doing charity work. They aren't out there feeding the homeless," she said. "They are out there committing crimes."
Currently, there are around 7,700 inmates in state prisons.
The absconder numbers come three years after the New Mexico Department of Corrections came under scrutiny after reports that some inmates were being prematurely released. Meanwhile, others were being held long after their full sentences had been served because of short staffing and an antiquated paper record-keeping system.
Officials have since worked to create a centralized database to modernize the state's record keeping in the prison system.
Last week, Gov. Susana Martinez announced she gave Marcantel a $16,000 raise that boosts his salary to nearly $124,000.
The 54-year-old said he had prepared his retirement paperwork because his state salary caused his pension benefits from a previous government job to decline.
But Marcantel said he's decided to remain on the job because the pay raise will offset what he says he's losing in pension benefits.
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