Jail overcrowding rises as pricey problem

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — It’s a gated community where no one wants to live but a place hundreds and hundreds of people end up.

Too many people, in fact, so federal judges who have oversight of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center want the overcrowding fixed.

The massive jail was built on Albuquerque's southwest mesa about 10 years ago to relieve overcrowding at the now-former downtown jail.

Staffers took KRQE News 13 inside MDC for a look while the feds and county leaders met to come up with a solution.

In one pod with suspected sex offenders, there are 95 inmates where there are supposed to be 64.

There should be one corrections officer for every 50 inmates. Right now it’s one officer for 96 inmates.

And there should be two beds in a cell. Right now there are three.

The county is looking at other options to solve overcrowding. They say those options include putting up barracks.

That would cost about $7 million not including staffing. Adding on another wing at the jail would cost $40 million plus $8 million a year to operate.

Another option includes moving inmates to other jails around the state at a cost of $19 million. There's also the possibility of re-opening the old jail at Fifth Street and Roma Avenue NW and converting it into a treatment center. The county says the cost of that is not known.

County leaders say they are already hiring more court employees to monitor nonviolent inmates who could be released while waiting to go to trial.

Jail staffers say a treatment facility would be a better, more efficient place for nonviolent suspects instead of locking them up at MDC.

“I need the public to understand we’re not talking about releasing violent, repeat offenders,” said MDC Chief Ramon Rustin. "These institutions are created just for them."

On Friday MDC staffers were at a settlement conference with federal judges negotiating possible solutions.

Deputy County Manager for Public Safety Tom Swisstack told News 13 he’s not allowed to disclose what happened at the meeting. However he did say he believes the downtown treatment facility would be the best solution.

The feds and county leaders will meet again next month.

Copyright 2014 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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