The U.S. Department of Justice said in a court filing last week that it’s unconstitutional to keep people behind bars just because they can’t afford to pay bail. Some bail bondsmen in New Mexico argue people in poverty shouldn’t be allowed to skirt the law.
States around the country—including New Mexico—use fixed bail amounts set according to the crime. But the DOJ is urging states to move away from the practice.
Bail bondsman John Madrid says that’s unfair and that bail’s important because it demands responsibility. "Part of the process is to start requiring people to be accountable for the things that they do. Because how many times will somebody go to jail and just get released without a bond before it gets to be old news?"
This is a familiar debate in our state. A constitutional amendment heading to voters in November aims to prevent nonviolent offenders who can’t pay bail from remaining in lockup. But only if the defendant can show he or she is low-income—and that’s why it lost the support of some local advocates.