Bernalillo County plans to release prisoners

Posted at: 11/26/2012 5:34 PM
Updated at: 11/26/2012 6:04 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Bernalillo County commissioners are considering a plan to release hundreds of prisoners from the county jail.

The proposal is for the county to purchase another 300 ankle bracelets, so more low-risk prisoners can be released with electronic monitoring. The county is already capable of monitoring 200 inmates who are released that way.

The jail is built to hold 2,200 prisoners. These days, the population is running about 400 to 500 over that capacity, and in the summertime it's much more crowded than that.

"We have a lot of offenders here that really don't pose that much of a threat to public safety," said jail chief Ramon Rustin. "Those individuals have a bunch of issues; substance abuse issues, alcohol issues. They're petty crime type offenders."

The jail chief said electronic monitoring, drug testing and counseling are better options for those inmates, while the more serious and dangerous ones remain locked up. Support for the idea is growing among county commissioners.

"Are we running a safe jail? I would say yes," said Commissioner Wayne Johnson. "But the potential for problems when you have overcrowding is always there, so you need to make sure you address those."

Rustin pointed out that right now more than 25 percent of the inmates are mental patients on prescribed psychotropic drugs. But it's not a mental hospital, it's a jail.

County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the ankle bracelets Tuesday night.