New Mexico’s bail reform program was passed in February of 2016 and went into effect in July of 2017. The state’s crime rate had already been extremely high for years prior to implementing the new bail reform policies. The goal for modifying the state’s criminal justice system was to decrease incarceration rates and improve crime statistics. However, the program has backfired and crime has been out-of-control.
The New Bail Reform Policies Have Resulted in the Release of Defendants Accused of Murder, Child Abuse and Other Violent Crimes
Since New Mexico modified their criminal justice system, crime has only increased. Judges have been releasing pretrial defendants who have been accused of committing not only violent crimes, but unheard-of violent crimes. One great example involved the release of five adults who were living in a makeshift compound in Taos County. They were found with eleven starving children and a three-year-old who was allegedly killed during a religious ritual.
The judge for this case concluded that there was not enough evidence to keep the defendants behind bars as they awaited their trial, which created a large stir within the communities of New Mexico and caused many to reconsider the new bail policies. Experts explained the move was a result of many recent changes to how the state treats defendants before their trials, with “clear and convincing evidence” of being a danger to the community.
A professor from University of New Mexico Law School and chairman of a committee which assisted with providing recommendations on reforming cash bail in the state explained, “These people have been charged. They have not been convicted, so you’re balancing individual rights versus safety of the community, and the judge is weighing that when she is determining evidence presented by the prosecutor. Just because someone is charged with first-degree murder or first-degree sexual assault, that by itself is insufficient. The court’s got to consider other evidence of whether the person might be a danger or a flight risk, such as nature and circumstances, which is different than the charge itself.”
The judge released the defendants from jail on house arrest with a $20,000 bond, in addition to wearing GPS ankle monitors and weekly supervision. However, none of the five who were accused had a physical address, as they were all living on the makeshift compound which was not their property by ownership or rental. Therefore, these defendants had no home to go to.
New Reform Policies Failing to Protect the Innocent
According to a handout, ‘Key Facts and Law Regarding Pretrial Release and Detention’ , created and dispersed by the Administrative Office of the Court of New Mexico on January 31, 2018, it explains the new passage of a constitutional amendment was to ‘give judges new authority to deny release to proven dangerous defendants no matter how much they can pay to buy a bail bond and ensuring that defendants who are neither a danger nor a flight risk may not be kept in jail before trial only because they cannot afford to buy a money bond; and to better protect public safety and improve equal protection of the law’.
In SECTION 1, it reads “Bail may be denied pending trial if, after a hearing, the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably ensure the appearance of the person as required or protect the safety of any other person or the community.”
It was quite evident and clear that this pretrial case involving one dead child; eleven others who were being starved to death and no actual physical home to appoint house arrests for any of the five defendants for supervised release staff would have met the requirements to detain these arrestees. It’s also obvious that the new constitutional amendment is more for protecting criminals than victims or citizens of the state.
If we rewind back to February of 2016 when the new bail system passed the House, an article released by NMPoliticalReport.com which summarized the meeting, began with, “Legislation that would allow for judges to withhold bail for defendants who pose a danger to the community, but also waive bail for defendants who are in jail only because they cannot afford it, passed the House unanimously ”.
NEWS VIDEO FROM BEGINNING OF BAIL REFORM IN NEW MEXICO – JULY 17, 2017
New Mexico’s Governor Warns Utah About the Devastating Results of Bail Reform
After bail reform was put in place in New Mexico, the severity of increased crime pushed Governor Susan Martinez to come forward with a video to warn other states about the devastating consequences of bail reform, including court rule changes with legislative input and the use of the Arnold Foundation Risk Assessment Tool.
“Good morning. I’m Susana Martinez, Governor of New Mexico. Before taking office, I was a prosecutor for 25 years keeping dangerous criminals off the streets and behind bars where they belong has always been one of my top priorities. As leaders in Utah work to consider reforms to bail bonds and pretrial detention rules, I know your top priority is to keep your citizens safe from dangerous and repeat criminals. Here in New Mexico, we’ve been working hard to crack down on a catch and release, revolving door criminal justice system. A problem that irresponsible interpretations and rules implemented by courts and the Arnold Pretrial Risk Assessment Tool have only aggravated. New Mexico implemented this pretrial risk assessment tool to devastating results. I encourage those in Utah to be very skeptical of voices calling for misleading devices that would result in dangerous criminals back out on the street to terrorize communities. Thank you for your time. And God bless you as you move forward in working to make your state a safer place.”