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Bill requiring pretrial detention for some crimes would cost $15M

Grant Durr

Among the crime bills in the legislative session this year is one that would detain certain people before trial without bond based on a presumption that they’re too dangerous to be released. It has backing from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, but opponents are concerned about cost, overcrowded detention facilities, and the potential for wrongful incarceration.

Currently prosecutors must persuade a judge that someone should not be released into the community. Senate BIll 123 would shift that structure and presume those charged with certain violent crimes should automatically be held without bond. But the bill does allow that presumption to be rebutted by the person accused of a crime.

If this bill is passed, the cost to state and local general funds for keeping defendants jailed and providing public defenders until trial would be just over $15 million annually.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, says the price is worth it compared to what is saved.

"The cost saving is the life saved. The cost saving is preventing people from being raped. The cost saving is protecting our children while they're on our streets. That cost saving is about less robberies, less car thefts, and less crime in our stores," said Moores.

Moores said we need to focus on crime to make our state a safer place to live.

"We cannot have economic development, we cannot have better schools, if we're not addressing the crime issue. "

Steven Robert Allen directs the New Mexico Prison & Jail Project, which files civil rights lawsuits on behalf of incarcerated people. He said if the bill passes, there are going to be a lot of innocent people detained for no reason. This will make problems worse at places like the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County.

"We already have a packed jail here that has been experiencing medieval conditions for quite some time" said Allen. "People are dying there, because there isn't enough staff. So why would we want to put more people there?"

Allen said there are other ways to address crime and we need to go in a different direction.

"We want our communities to be safe. We don't want our houses to be broken into. We don't want to be victims of violence. But we need to be lifting people up, not making it harder for them."

SB 123 was to be heard this week but is now is slated for its first hearing on Monday, February 13 before the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee,

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s a former Local News Fund Fellow. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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