New Mexico to reevaluate risk assessment tool for pretrial release

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SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico legislators say it is time to reevaluate the state’s relationship with the Arnold tool, which recommends which suspects should and should not be released before trial.

“The Arnold tool is just like any other computer program, and we all know the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ phrase,” said Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who represents Doña Ana County. “From the perspective of those of us who have looked at the tool, it would seem very clear the tool is being used to make recommendations for a lot of individuals being released, that shouldn’t be.”

One example includes Solomon Peña, the former Republican candidate accused of organizing shootings at the homes of four high-profile Democrats. According to Peña’s public safety assessment, the Arnold tool says he could be released on his own recognizance, even with a past felony conviction for burglary on his record from 2007 and the violent nature of the crime he was arrested for.

“75% of the murders we reviewed in Albuquerque in 2021, 75% of those murderers that were charged, were recommended to be released,” Cervantes said.

In many cases, a judge decides to keep the suspect behind bars, but Cervantes said some judges follow the recommendation – opening the door for more potential violence.

“The Arnold tool can also be used as an excuse for why certain individuals have been released and why they’re committing horrible murders while they’re on release,” Cervantes said.

He said the easy solution is to adjust what kind of information is put into the program, and that is what has reportedly worked in other states. Cervantes also said state lawmakers should also discuss if the tool is even necessary.

“There is an argument being made that the Arnold tool really serves very little purpose, because all it does really is aggregate information that the judge would already have anyway,” he said.

Cervantes also noted judges always have the final decision to release suspects.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to discuss the Arnold tool at length Wednesday morning, and the public will be invited to sit in.