State lawmakers evaluate overcrowding at local jail

Posted at: 11/29/2012 5:32 PM
Updated at: 11/29/2012 5:48 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

It's the number one problem at the state's biggest county jail: Overcrowding at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque.

A committee of state lawmakers got an earful about the situation Thursday afternoon.

The jail was built to hold about 2,200 inmates, however, on any given night, it's holding 400 to 500 inmates above capacity. And in the summer time it's as much as 1,000 inmates above capacity.

History indicates that overcrowding leads to fights, riots and lawsuits. History also shows that people don't like higher taxes and state lawmakers are well aware of that.

"Nobody in Bernalillo County wants their property taxes to increase to pay for jail space," Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said. "We have to come to grips with the fact that there's a finite number of jail cells and who really deserves in these jail cells: Folks awaiting trial on petty stuff or more violent criminals or violent suspects?"

"Exactly who is sitting in that jail - why are they there - that's what we need to get more information on," Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) said. "If they're there, for example, because the Department of Corrections has not picked up convicted felons soon enough - okay - that's something the state can do."

This week Bernalillo County Commissioners approved the purchase of 500 new electronic ankle bracelets to monitor more low risk inmates who can be released under supervision back into the community.

Law makers are expected to come up with some solutions to the overcrowding problem when they convene for the upcoming 60 day legislative session.