UNM researchers claim bail reform is working | KOB 4

UNM researchers claim bail reform is working

Patrick Hayes
Created: November 21, 2019 10:19 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- State representatives, district attorneys and other elected officials used this week to roll out their legislative agendas and plans to improve public safety.  

Additionally, a majority of the plans target a 2016 constitutional amendment that changed the criteria judges use to decide whether a defendant should be released pending trial.


But some say the new rules are actually working, and they have the facts to prove it.

In July, researchers at the University of New Mexico sent the courts a memo, analyzing pretrial detention motions.

According to their research, between July 2017 and August 2018, 17% of defendants in cases where a pretrial motion was denied committed a new crime.

That's 2% percent higher than defendants who did not face pretrial detention.

"What that tells me is that the judges are doing a pretty good job of determining which defendant subject to a detention motion should be released and which fit into that narrow category of people that are so dangerous we should keep them in jail until they go to trial." said Arthur Pepin, director of Administrative Office of the Courts.

UNM researchers also claimed, overusing pretrial detention “may jeopardize community protection in at least two ways.”

First, it strains limited detention resources on persons who could be released on their own recognizance.

And second, “if low- to moderate-risk defendants are unnecessarily detained pretrial, their recidivism likelihood may increase rather than lessen.”

Still, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez wants to change the way the courts handle pretrial detention.

As KOB previously reported, Torrez believes the constitutional amendment has not been effective in keeping the most dangerous people off the streets.

For example, prosecutors filed motions trying to keep defendants like Darian Bashir and Johnathan Griego behind bars. Those motions were denied. However, both men were eventually re-arrested and charged with new crimes including murder.

Despite those cases, court officials argue that UNM’s data proves the system is working.

“If we could predict perfectly who was going to be really danger -- sure, I'm sure judges would keep them in,” said Pepin. “I think this data shows we're heading in the right direction. We've got a pretty good idea how to identify those people and I think we'll get better at is as we go along."

Pepin told KOB 4 that he plans to present lawmakers with UNM’s research and additional studies on Monday and let them decide what’s next.

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