ACLU study looks to debunk myths about local crime
January 19, 2018 06:56 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It's no secret lawmakers are prioritizing crime this legislative session, but a local civil rights group says some of them have it wrong when it comes to factors and reforming the criminal justice system.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico on Friday released a preliminary report titled Beyond the Myths – their own deep-dive study that says some politicians, police and bail-bond companies have been misleading the public about reforms, and what exactly is causing crime to rise.
Katie Hoeppner, a lead writer for ACLU New Mexico, co-authored the report, and she says they targeted what they refer to as the major myths that are circulating about crime in order to set the record straight.
"Right now in New Mexico, we are not having a reality-based conversation about criminal justice reform," Hoeppner said.
For instance – take the oft-circulated concept that the less populated jails are, the greater crime rates will be.
Hoeppner said that, as a matter of fact, crime is caused by a multitude of factors.
"And more importantly, we don't know that the people who are being released are the people who are then going out and committing crimes," she said.
When it comes to the idea that the bail-bond industry safeguards the public, Hoeppner said there is no concrete cause-and-effect.
"Just because someone can pay bond does not mean they're a threat to the community," she said. "It just means that they had enough money to pay bond."
The risk assessment tool – often referred to as the Arnold Tool – has had a controversial existence. Hoeppner says it's a myth that these tools cause judges to release dangerous defendants.
"That's a myth because these tools are meant to help judges make evidence-based decisions rather than wealth-based decisions," she said. "It's always up to the judge; he still has his own discretion."
The next idea the ACLU calls a myth – that the APD's consent decree with the Department of Justice ties up the hands of police, driving up crime in the process.
"Crime was rising well before the DOJ consent decree, so to point fingers and to blame it on that is just untrue," Hoeppner said.
Finally, Hoeppner calls the idea that judges are to blame for "catch-and-release" criminals mere finger-pointing.
"People like to point their fingers and blame it on judges, but we live in a free society where people are considered innocent until proven guilty," she said. "So when judges release people that have not proven to be a threat to the community, they're just doing their job. They're following the Constitution."
The full report – which the ACLU delivered to lawmakers in Santa Fe this week – can be viewed here.
Updated: January 19, 2018 06:56 PM
Created: January 19, 2018 06:09 PM
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