State Fact Sheet

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative in New Mexico

Results First in New Mexico

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative > State Work > New Mexico


In September 2011, New Mexico state Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman, and Representative Luciano “Lucky” Varela, vice chair, and fellow members of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee partnered with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative to “advance the use of cost-benefit analysis to inform policy and budget decisions in New Mexico, particularly in the areas of early childhood and criminal justice.”

As the fiscal and management arm of the New Mexico Legislature, the committee has long used performance-based budgeting strategies and conducted in-depth policy analysis and program evaluations to inform its decisions. The committee makes budgetary recommendations to the Legislature for funding state government, higher education, and public schools. It also employs professional program evaluators to determine whether taxpayer expenditures are producing desired results and to recommend improvements in state government. New Mexico is unusual in that both the governor and a legislative panel—the Finance Committee—propose comprehensive state budgets to lawmakers.


Beginning in 2011, a team of researchers, led by Finance Committee Director David Abbey and Deputy Director Charles Sallee and operating under the committee’s direction, developed the New Mexico Results First model, including adult criminal justice and child welfare programs. The team partnered with the New Mexico Sentencing Commission, which provided valuable analytic support, and with the Children, Youth, and Families Department, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Safety, the Corrections Department, and the Public Education Department to collect state data. By September 2012, researchers had reported results for selected adult criminal justice programs operated by the Corrections Department and for home visiting programs operated by the Human Services Department.

Cost-benefit findings

The committee’s criminal justice analysis indicated striking differences in return on investment among programs offered to prisoners in New Mexico. For example, it found that providing cognitive behavioral therapy in prisons is relatively inexpensive and produces positive results. According to the analysis, the program yields slightly more than $19 in benefits for every dollar invested, a 278 percent return on investment.

Researchers also used the model to put a price tag on recent cuts to drug courts and Corrections Industries programming. Among other findings, they determined that drug courts yield $20,000 in benefits per participant over a seven-year period and that the cuts will cost taxpayers and potential crime victims an estimated $18 million in benefits each year they remain in place.

Further, the Corrections Industries intervention program was shown by the model to generate $7,000 per participating offender in benefits to taxpayers over seven years. The committee’s report estimated that cuts to the program would result in $1 million in unrealized benefits per year.

In its 2012 report, the committee acknowledged the role of Results First in building the evidence base for budget decisions and improving policymaking, stating: “New Mexico along with a dozen other states is receiving technical guidance from the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative for the implementation of this model. Through a better understanding of program effectiveness and cost benefit of investments, policy makers can reinvest scarce criminal justice funds toward strategies that result in reduced recidivism and increased public safety.”

Policy Impact

In response to these findings, the state Corrections Department is replacing the Therapeutic Communities drug treatment program with an intervention based on cognitive behavioral therapy, the Residential Drug Abuse Program, in all of its adult corrections facilities. In addition, the Legislature appropriated $150,000 in state general funds to Corrections Industries, increasing the program budget to $3.4 million.

Next Steps

As of 2013, the Finance Committee is developing the New Mexico Results First model for juvenile justice programs, mental health and community-based substance abuse programs serving individuals not involved with the criminal justice system, and pre-k through 12th-grade education. The committee expects to release additional reports in the winter of 2013.



The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative is a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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October 23, 2013
Nicole Dueffert | 202.552.2274
Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative
Revenue and Spending