County meets tonight to address jail overcrowding

Posted at: 11/27/2012 4:27 PM
Updated at: 11/27/2012 5:37 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Bernalillo County commissioners are expected to approve a plan Tuesday night that would release hundreds of inmates from the county jail to solve an overcrowding problem.

The plan is for the county to buy 500 more electronic ankle bracelets to monitor low-risk inmates in the community. The county's top law enforcement officer is hopeful it will work, but cautious at the same time.

"There's no magic bullet here," said Sheriff Dan Houston. "I think it's going to be quite some time before we see whether or not this is going to be a viable solution to the overcrowding at the jail."

The idea is to screen inmates carefully, releasing only non-violent petty crime offenders under strict supervision with plenty of drug testing. It could reduce the jail population by as many as 700 prisoners total.

"That's the thing that a lot of the public doesn't understand," said jail Chief Ramon Rustin. "These offenders are going to get out, so what we're proposing is that they get out, be supervised, and have some programs so they don't commit those crimes."

Bottom line: the jail just isn't big enough, and nobody wants to spend millions on another new one, not even cops.

"I think we have a lot of law enforcement officers now that try and do alternatives to having to make the hour trip out there in driving time," said Houston. "There's a two-hour wait sometimes just to book someone on a petty crime - a misdemeanor."

The jail already has about 200 inmates released in the Community Custody Program. It could go up to 700 with the new ankle bracelets.

The commission meets at 5:30 p.m.