New Mexico Pretrial Justice Practices Show Signs of Success

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Improvements to New Mexico’s pretrial practices are working to promote community safety and honor the constitutional principles of the American justice system, reports the Los Alamos Daily Post. A study by University of New Mexico researchers that analyzed nearly 10,300 cases in Bernalillo County between July 2017 and March 2020 in which defendants charged with felonies were released from custody pending trial found that 95 percent of felony defendants were not arrested for a violent crime while on pretrial release; about one-tenth of one percent of the total number of released defendants were arrested for a first-degree felony – 13 out of the 10,289 felony cases reviewed by researchers; four of five released felony defendants were not arrested for a crime while awaiting trial; of those who were arrested –1,950 out of 10,289 – misdemeanors, petty misdemeanors and fourth-degree felonies accounted for most of the charged crimes.

A research-based tool, known as the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), was implemented in Bernalillo County in 2017 to help judges gauge the likelihood of a defendant’s success while released pending trial – meaning that a person returns for future court appearances and remains arrest-free while their case is resolved. A centralized operation in the Administrative Office of the Courts– the first of its kind in the United States – completes a criminal history background check of defendants and the PSA for multiple courts to provide evidence-based information to judges for pretrial decision-making. Those early decisions after a person’s arrest focus on public safety and ensuring that released defendants return to court for future hearings.

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