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New Mexico governor warns Utah about bail reforms

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is urging the State of Utah to be careful as it undergoes a bail reform.

Last year, judges in Bernalillo County with the 2nd Judicial District Court started using the Laura and John Arnold Foundation tool. It’s a public safety assessment that moves away from a money-based bail system and instead focuses on the risk a defendant poses to the community and if they’ll make their court appearances.

As a result, more people are being released from jail on their own recognizance. 

So as crime has climbed in New Mexico recently, the once-full Metropolitan Detention Center is only at 70 percent capacity as of today, April 25.

Some people point to the year-old Arnold tool as the problem; among them is Gov. Martinez. She recently appeared in a video, posted to the American Bail Agent Coalition’s YouTube page, warning the State of Utah about the tool.

“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,” she says in the 1 minute 18 second video.

A Utah Courts spokesperson said it will soon be implementing the Arnold tool, however, the spokesperson clarified that its version of the tool still recommends cash bail for more serious crimes. They also said the bail industry, which is behind the YouTube video, is not being accurate.

“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 letting dangerous criminals back out on the street to terrorize communities,” the Gov. says in the video.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s ACLU thinks Gov. Martinez is meddling.

“Susana Martinez really shouldn’t be inserting herself into the business of another state,” Katie Hoeppner with the ACLU said. “We know that crime has been on the rise since before these measure were implemented and beyond that, it’s irresponsible to blame crime on one factor.”

When asked about the circumstances of the video, the Governor’s Office sent this statement to KRQE News 13:

“The implementation of the pre-trial detention rules by the New Mexico Supreme Court is disastrous for our communities. The Governor will continue to stand against dangerous criminals and repeat offenders being let out on the streets and will lend her voice to any state considering these faulty rules.”

We also reached out to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation for its thoughts on the video, and were sent this statement:

“Dozens of communities across the United States have turned to risk assessment as a means to bring more equity into the pretrial process. We believe there is a constitutional imperative to keep moving forward.”

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