Bernalillo may ship inmates to ease jail crowding

April 8, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Bernalillo County may move up 300 prisoners to other facilities elsewhere in New Mexico and possibly even Texas to ease jail crowding.

The County Commission on Tuesday will consider county officials’ request for approval to spend up to $6 million to send 250 to 300 inmates to other jurisdictions, the Albuquerque Journal ( ) reported.

County officials are trying to avoid a possible federal court order to relieve crowding in the Metropolitan [auth] Detention Center on Albuquerque’s west side by an even larger number of inmates.

“This is something we have resisted doing for some time,” commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins said. “I think we’ve reached a point where we don’t have any other options.”

Sending prisoners to facilities outside Bernalillo County would be a short-term step. Longer-term options include expanding the jail’s capacity, renovatinxg an old county jail in downtown Albuquerque and putting more prisoners in community custody programs that include use of ankle bracelets.

Plans call for moving prisoners to jails in Cibola and Sandoval counties, to the Torrance County Detention Facility operated by Correction Corp. of America in Estancia and possibly a facility in Littlefield, Texas, according to briefing materials provided the commission.

Deputy County Manager Tom Swisstack said negotiations between lawyers for the county and plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit included conversations with a judge about a mandated cap on the jail’s population of 1,800 and even 1,700. That would be far below the jail’s recent population of just under 2,500.

Instead, the sides agreed to reduce the jail’s population to its design capacity of 2,236 by April 22, Swisstack said.

Most of the prisoners that Bernalillo County would send elsewhere would be inmates sentenced to longer jail terms, not those serving shorter sentences or awaiting trial.

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