SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) — The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Friday to discuss the controversial ‘Arnold Tool,‘ also known as the Public Safety Assessment. It’s a tool judges use to determine the likelihood someone will commit another crime if released, and how likely they are to come back to court if they’re let go.
The title of Friday’s hearing was: ‘Arnold Tool: Crystal Ball or Crutch?’ Five speakers told the Senate Judiciary Committee their views on how the process is working.
“Hopefully, by this proceeding and presentation, if nothing else, we’ll have a better understanding of that and perhaps encourage the court to reevaluate the need for the tool or how the tool’s been utilized,” said Senator Joseph Cervantes, (D-Las Cruces).
The tool looks at nine factors related to a defendant’s age, criminal history, and the charge they’re facing. It then assigns people a risk assessment score which the judge can take into consideration when looking at whether or not to keep someone behind bars.
Several speakers said some changes are needed: including regular validation of the tool to make sure it’s still accurate, and regular training for anyone who has to use this tool.
“The people who designed it took years and 1.5 million cases that they looked at to come up with the tool, and so, should we make sure that it works for us? Absolutely. Should we keep verifying that it does what it’s supposed to be doing? Absolutely. But you can’t just change it and expect it to be as accurate as it is now,” said Jonathan Ibarra, a senior trial attorney with the Law Offices of the Public Defender of the 2nd Judicial District.
This is not the first time this tool has been debated this week. In a public safety news conference Wednesday, the District Attorney for Bernalillo County Sam Bregman asked that the legislature either throw out the tool or fix it.
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The case of Solomon Peña, the man accused of being involved in shooting cases at elected officials’ homes, came up as an example in the discussion: Peña was detained, but the Arnold Tool recommended his release.
Senator Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) is sponsoring a bill this session that she says would apply a better filter for how much of a potential threat a defendant is.