“We’re not filing pretrial detention motions on everybody. “
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — More people are being held for trial in Bernalillo County. Since 2019, judges were only granting around half of all pretrial preventative detention motions. This year, those numbers are way up.
According to a report from the UNM Institute for Social Research, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is filing about 95 pretrial preventative detention motions a month this year. Research shows around 60% of them are granted.
“We are beginning to move the needle in this town when it comes to crime. I mean, it may not feel like it overnight, but I think if we continue to grind it out, we’ll get done what we need to get done,” said Sam Bregman, District Attorney for Bernalillo County.
According to the data, the number of pretrial preventative detention motions—which are used to keep suspected criminals behind bars until trial—is up by nearly 20% since last year and is about 50% higher than five years ago.
Just last month, around 60% of these motions were granted. Bregman credits this to his team doing things a little differently in the courtroom.
“We are focusing very heavily on the threat to the safety of the community. We are making sure that when we present our case, the court understands what a danger this person is to the community,” Bregman explained, “We’re having actual witnesses attend these and bringing out testimony as opposed to just lawyers arguing.”
While the percentage of motions granted is rising, the number of motions filed has remained steady over the past year.
“We’re not filing pretrial detention motions on everybody. We’re not filing them, taking them for granted and just say, ‘Hey, detain him.’ These are people that need to be detained for the safety of the community, and I think this process is beginning to work and show some results,” Bregman said.
The report also shows last month the prison population at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) is nearly 15% higher than last year; however, Bregman said, this isn’t their biggest concern: “If people need to be incarcerated, and there’s more, so be it. We’re going to keep doing our job.”
He said the work is far from over: “I’m pleasantly encouraged, let me say that, but our work is not done. We’re not taking a victory lap. We are continuing to want to see those numbers go up.”
The report also showed about a quarter of offenders will be re-arrested within three months after release from MDC, and 35% within six months. The report said MDC has about 200 more inmates than it did in May of last year, and they’re staying an average of three days longer.