Poll shows broad support for bail reform

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A public opinion poll shows 78 percent of likely New Mexico voters favor changing the state constitution to limit the use of commercial bail in deciding which defendants stay in jail before trial and which go free.

A constitutional amendment on the ballot for next week’s election would allow judges to deny bail to people who are proven dangerous at a hearing. It also would forbid judges from holding non-dangerous defendants in jail pretrial solely because they cannot raise bail money.

Early voting began Oct. 11.

Research and Polling, Inc., surveyed 407 likely voters by cellphone and landline between Sept. 22 and Oct. 2 for the Committee for Smarter Justice, a coalition formed to support the constitutional amendment. The poll was released last week.

Fifty percent of respondents said they “strongly support” changing the state constitution, and another 28 percent said they “somewhat support” the measure. Eight percent opposed the change, seven percent were undecided, and another seven percent either didn’t know or wouldn’t say.

Among the survey’s more interesting findings: 78 percent of respondents had not heard anything about the proposal prior to being contacted by pollsters.

There has been no advertising either in support or in opposition to the amendment. And since a heated battle in the Legislature after which lawmakers agreed with the bail bonds industry on new constitutional language, there has been no vocal opposition to the reform measure.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they supported the amendment for its provision that would allow judges to hold provably dangerous defendants without bail. Meanwhile, 68 percent said they favored freeing non-dangerous people who are only incarcerated before their trials because they cannot afford to post bail.

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Read the survey here.

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