Voters elected on November 8th to amend New Mexico's Constitution as 87% cast their ballot in support of Constitutional Amendment 1. The amendment will allow judges more discretion to keep dangerous criminals in jail despite their ability to pay bail and prohibits judges from imposing bail amounts that lower-income citizens can't afford. The passage of Constitutional Amendment 1 is part of a national effort to reform court's fees and penalties system.
"The tremendous support that this bill received just shows us that our state is looking for criminal justice reform," said Terri Cole, CEO and President of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. "This improves the overcrowding problem in our jails while cutting costs and keeping our streets safer. The positive outcomes from this bill passing are exponential. New Mexicans are grateful for the leadership of NM Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels; his staunch support of these reforms were critical in the amendment's successful passage."
Analysts in the New Mexico Legislature estimated that the amendment will save about $17 million a year and will help reduce the number of people in New Mexico's overcrowded jails. This estimate takes into account the loss of dollars that the dangerous criminals would have paid in their high bail amount. According to the Report from Santa Fe, Bernalillo County currently spends about $60,000 per day housing 500 inmates who cannot post bond.
The GACC has actively supported and lobbied on behalf of this amendment since it was introduced during the legislative session in January as it was a key component in the Chamber's public safety agenda. The organization, in September, pulled together supporters of the bill and formed the Committee for Smarter Justice, a political action committee focused on educating the public on the amendment and promoting the ways in which it will improve the community and judicial system. New Mexico is now only one of a few states that provides judges with the authority they need to keep dangerous defendants behind bars while awaiting trial and allow defendants who pose no threat to society to remain out of jail despite their ability to pay bail.