August 01, 2018 Feature

The Importance of Judicial Leadership in Achieving Pretrial Justice Reform : New Mexico’s Experience

By Justice Charles W. Daniels

Most courts in the United States have relied heavily on a money-based, instead of a risk-based, system to determine whether accused defendants will be held in jail or released before trial. This is true even though the trial will determine their guilt or innocence, with constitutional guarantees of fair adjudication honoring the bedrock principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The result has been a lack of rational justice in our pretrial justice system, where clearly dangerous defendants or those who pose substantial flight risks can buy their way out of jail if they have access to the money required to do so. Large numbers of poorer defendants who are neither dangerous nor flight risks are held in jail simply for lack of money, with substantial harm done to them and their families, while taxpayers foot the bills for housing, feeding, guarding, medicating, and caring for them.

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