Back Inside

Re-arrest of man featured in 2021 SFR cover story raises questions about vague, overbroad parole standards

Shane Lasiter was done with the Lea County Correctional Facility—until he wasn’t.

“It’s horrible,” Lassiter tells SFR. “In my mind, I hadn’t done anything wrong, but now I’m sitting here looking at these walls again. I have a daily routine, but nothing concrete. I don’t have any intention of staying. It feels like I’m underwater and I’m holding my breath.”

Lasiter was paroled last spring after serving 40 years in prison—part of it at the Lea County facility—on a murder conviction. But he was re-arrested in January for being in the company of a 19-year-old woman in Albuquerque who had a warrant out for her arrest in an alleged armed robbery case. That association, in the view of the New Mexico Adult Parole Board, amounted to a violation of Lasiter’s parole. The board ordered him re-incarcerated for 18 months to five years.

Lasiter, 57, had no idea the woman had a warrant, he says. One of his lawyers, Denali Wilson of the American Civil Liberties Union, is fighting the parole revocation in state District Court in Santa Fe.

The case spotlights two broad, confusing parole conditions that govern the freedom of thousands of people under state supervision in New Mexico. The first says, “I will not knowingly associate with any person who is a detriment to my parole.” The other: “I must maintain acceptable behavior and conduct which shall justify me the opportunity granted to me by the Adult Parole Board.”

“Revocation under these two conditions is a part of a broader policy issue that has surfaced in our state before—the issue of ‘technical’ parole violations, re-arrest and re-incarceration for things that are not crimes or even legitimate public safety concerns,” Wilson says. “Parole revocation for technical violations is punishment for punishment’s sake and a major contributor of over-incarceration in our state.”

It is not clear exactly how many parole revocations hinge on the two conditions that ensnared Lasiter or whether the board is considering changes. As of Tuesday, there were 13,536 people on probation—which typically comes as a sentence in lieu of prison time—and parole, a supervision mechanism for people who have been released after serving time. Everyone on parole is subject to the “association” and “behavior” conditions.

Board Chairman Abram Anaya could not be reached for comment, and Probation and Parole Division Director Cisco McSorley declined via email to answer questions for this story.

Lasiter’s despair about sitting in the state prison in Hobbs is understandable. He’d spent a large chunk of his four decades behind bars in that lockup after fatally shooting a Dairy Queen owner during an armed robbery in Lordsburg. That was in 1981, when Lasiter was 16.

Last spring, following his fifth parole hearing, the board granted him parole after retooling its criteria to require a more individualized look at each case and more consideration of how someone had spent their time in prison instead of a cold rehash of the crime that put them there. SFR reported on Lasiter’s case in a June 2021 cover story about parole standards and youth sentencing.

Life was improving for Lasiter after his release, despite the challenges freedom presents to someone who’d spent the vast majority of his life in a cell. He’d done a stint in a halfway house, then rented an apartment near the Albuquerque International Sunport. He had a job as a gas station clerk, plans to start a power-washing business and an investor ready to help. He’d kept up with his counseling.

“I was paying my bills, I was employed and everything was running pretty smooth,” Lasiter tells SFR from the prison in Hobbs. “Things felt like they were moving a little fast, maybe, and I know I need to work on some areas like recognizing things and people that might not be good for me. I’m not very good at that, I guess, but there’s help for that.”

He had grown close to a woman in town who died somewhat suddenly, Lasiter says, and the experience pained him. The woman who later caught the warrant was trying to help him with companionship and getting him out of the apartment.

“The warrant was five days old,” Lasiter says. “There was no way for me to know about that. But when they came to serve the warrant, they arrested me, too…I was in shock. I was angry and extremely distraught. It never dawned on me that I was breaking any parole rules. This girl was trying to help me.”

Authorities took Lasiter to the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, then transferred him to the prison in Los Lunas, then to Lea County. The board revoked his parole, and Wilson went to work. But she couldn’t appeal the revocation to the board—because the board has no appeal procedure, which Wilson says is a violation of due process.

Further, Lasiter was not allowed legal counsel during the revocation hearing.

So using a special court rule, Wilson filed a writ in April challenging the constitutionality of the board’s rules and the “association” and “behavior” parole conditions that led to Lasiter’s revocation. It’s been assigned to First Judicial District Judge Maria Sanchez-Gagne, who must decide whether the state Supreme Court should hear the case. No hearing has been set.

“You have far more rights before the MVD in New Mexico than you do before the Parole Board,” Wilson tells SFR, citing a phrase often used by longtime criminal justice reform advocate Sheila Lewis. “Despite the broad implications of this issue, from start to finish, the Parole Board has failed to adequately or meaningfully contemplate due process in their revocation proceedings.”

Lasiter has now been back inside nearly as long as he’d been free.

“I’m ready to go,” he says, adding that he has several strategies in place to avoid running afoul of the state’s sweeping parole conditions when he is released again. He offers those as advice to others who are getting out of prison after serving long sentences.

“Be able to account for everything you’re doing, because the Parole Board is not happy about letting us out,” Lasiter says. “Make sure that your life is completely transparent. Be careful who you talk to. It’s a hard way to live.”

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.