Bernalillo Cty commissioner probes increase in pretrial spending | KOB 4
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Bernalillo Cty commissioner probes increase in pretrial spending

Jen French
October 23, 2017 10:34 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A Bernalillo county commissioner is questioning why more tax dollars are being spent on county pretrial services without data that proves defendants aren’t going on to commit more crimes.

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Last November, New Mexico voters chose to reform the state’s bail system in order to keep judges from jailing people who couldn’t afford bond.

When bail reform went into effect in July, many Bernalillo County judges began to release defendants for free – or for a nominal bond – to pretrial services.

Pretrial services allows people who have been arrested, but not convicted, to not have to post bond in order to be free before their court date. The original intent of pretrial services was to prevent indigent people from languishing in jail before their hearing.

However, in August KOB witnessed many defendants facing charges ranging from car theft to burglary still being released under their own recognizance, meaning he or she didn’t have to post bond. Many of these defendants are told to check in with pretrial services.  

Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson is questioning how well the pretrial system is keeping track of defendants in order to keep them from committing more crimes.

"So, you come in, you are released on your own recognizance, you're out on the street the next day and that's not serving justice,” Johnson said. “Quite frankly, that's endangering the public."

Bernalillo County’s budget reveals more money is being allotted for pretrial services. For fiscal year 2018, approximately $3.3 million dollars has been budgeted for pretrial district, metro court and GPS tracking services.

That’s up from $2.4 million in the prior year.

“The taxpayers of Bernalillo County are paying for these people to be out on the street again,” Johnson said. "So, for all of the court initiatives we've put in place, have we made the community safer? At this point, I'd have to say no."

According to the Bernalillo County budget, $184,000 has been budgeted for fiscal year 2018 for the UNM Institute for Social Research to study the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. Data yielded from the study has yet to be released to media.

Elizabeth Garcia, general counsel for the Second Judicial District Court, sent KOB the following statement:

“The Second Judicial District Court's Pretrial Services is a county-funded program.  The County is committed to ensuring the Pretrial Services program has adequate resources.   The Pretrial Services program continually strives to evaluate resource needs and works in partnership with the County to ensure there is adequate staffing and equipment for pretrial supervision.”

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Jen French

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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