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Here’s a plan for smart bail reform

Most New Mexicans agree that we need to give our judges wider discretion with the appropriate procedural safeguards to detain people without bail pending trial in felony cases where it can be proven that they are a danger to the community.

As we have seen too often in our communities, there have been criminals released from jail only to commit another crime, sometimes much more harsh than the original crime.

The crimes involving officer Greg Benner, Jayden Chavez-Silver, Lilly Garcia, officer Daniel Webster and so many more all involve a repeat offender.

Currently, judges have few options when faced with dangerous criminals.

Judges can currently deny bail for up to 60 days, in some cases, or set a very high cash bond. These options are simply not enough. Judges need another tool in their toolbox.

The community should not be put in harm’s way by releasing some of the worst criminals automatically back on the streets. Families should not be subjected to seeing their son’s murderer or their child’s rapist back in their community roaming free while they live in fear knowing that accused criminal has been set free.

That’s why I have introduced House Joint Resolution 13, a proposed constitutional amendment that will help make our community safer.

HJR 13 has 44 Democrat and Republican co-sponsors in the House and many other supporters. It will keep serious offenders in jail under a judge’s discretion, without collapsing the bail system, which is also necessary to ensure that those who are accused of criminal acts show up in court.

Another proposed constitutional amendment, SJR 1, creates a new constitutional right for many accused criminals to get out of jail free and be released on their own recognizance. I do not want the public safety of our state to take a step back.

My solution, HJR 13, addresses what is needed to lower crime and hopefully stop another preventable crime.

A recent poll conducted on Jan. 27 by BWD Global shows that a majority of New Mexicans are conflicted if they have to vote in the November general election to 1) give judges the ability to hold dangerous defendants without bail, and 2) release accused criminals onto the streets without bail simply because they claim they cannot afford to post bond.

The poll was conducted on 1,067 registered voting households throughout New Mexico. With only a 3.1 percent margin of error, the poll revealed that 74 percent of those contacted support giving judges more discretion to hold accused criminals determined to be dangerous without bail.

The poll also revealed that 66 percent of those contacted oppose the release of criminal defendants without bail if the defendant shows that he or she cannot afford bail.

I encourage all New Mexicans and my colleagues to get behind HJR 13 – a clean and concise proposed constitutional amendment that will make our state safer without compromising or collapsing our successful bail system.

Let’s begin taking the necessary steps together to make New Mexico a safer place to live, work, and raise our families.