Mend It, Don’t End It: A Common-Sense Approach to New Mexico’s Bail Reform

(Albuquerque, NM) – In 2016, New Mexicans overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to reform bail in the Land of Enchantment. But changes to the pretrial process remain controversial in the state, with Governor Susana Martinez expressing a desire to completely repeal the amendment.

In a new policy paper, Rio Grande Foundation researchers explain why the governor’s recommendation is unnecessary. “Mend It, Don’t End It: Reforming Bail Reform in New Mexico” summarizes why the state embraced alterations to the pretrial process, how bail has been changed since November 2016, and how common-sense measures can be adopted to make the system more effective for both defendants and the taxpaying public.

“Mend It, Don’t End It: Reforming Bail Reform in New Mexico”:

  • Revisits the deficiencies of the preexisting pretrial process, which former New Mexico Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels upbraided for allowing “dangerous defendants … [to] buy their way out of jail if they have access to the money required to secure their presumption of innocence,” while keeping “large numbers of poorer defendants who are neither dangerous nor flight risks … in jail simply for lack of money.”
  • Lists several bail-reform success stories, including those in New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Lucas County, Ohio; and Travis County, Texas.
  • Recommends several fixes to the New Mexico Supreme Court’s rule implementing the constitutional amendment – alterations that would build on the many strengths of the new pretrial reforms already enacted, and be guided by similar reforms elsewhere.

“Mend It, Don’t End It: Reforming Bail Reform in New Mexico” was authored by Rebecca Ralph, a former New Mexico prosecutor who serves as a senior fellow in legal studies at the Rio Grande Foundation, and D. Dowd Muska, the Foundation’s research director.

“This paper makes an important contribution to the current debate,” said Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing. “While critics are right to point out some of the mistakes made in the revamp of our state’s pretrial process, the solution is to improve, not scrap, bail reform in New Mexico.”