New Mexico’s governor is warning Utah courts against implementing new bail reforms next month. Governor Susana Martinez says the changes will put public safety at risk. But a Utah Court spokesman says Martinez message is ill-informed.
Bail is money or property a person can pay to get out of jail temporarily while they await trial. It’s an assurance that they’ll show up to court. Next month, Utah judges will start using a new tool that evaluates whether an arrested person is likely to appear in court if released before trial. The idea is to keep dangerous, flight risks in custody — instead of people who just can’t afford to make bail.
This week, Martinez posted a YouTube video aimed at Utah officials. In it, she warns Utah that when New Mexico implemented the tool, it backfired.
“I encourage those in Utah to be very skeptical of voices calling for misleading devices that will result in letting dangerous criminals back on the street to terrorize communities,” she said.
New Mexico voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2016 that makes it harder for judges to hold some people in Jail. Martinez says it created a catch-and-release system in New Mexico’s courts.
“We learned from New Mexico’s mistakes,” said Geoff Fattah, a spokesman for the Utah Court system. He says the Utah reforms don’t tie judges hands like the New Mexico law did.
“We’re simply providing information to our judges that can help them make a better assessment as to whether or not somebody should be released on their own recognizance, released with bail or held without bail based on their criminal history, their past history of not showing up for court or fleeing and also their violent case history,” Fattah said.
Utah lawmakers and the bail industry initially pushed back on the risk assessment tool, but Fattah says they now support it.