New problems with overcrowding at inmate program

Posted at: 03/20/2013 9:29 PM
Updated at: 03/20/2013 10:12 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

An inmate contacted KOB Eyewitness News 4 with video he recorded inside the Bernalillo County Public Safety Center.

The man, who is not being identified, said it is not only uncomfortable, he feels it is dangerous.  KOB Eyewitness News 4 obtained a copy of the video and took the video straight to the people in charge.

In the video, it is around 7:30 in the morning.  Inmates in the Community Custody Program are packed inside a room, some sitting in chairs but most lining the walls, shoulder-to-shoulder.

"We're corralled in like livestock," the inmate, who shot the video, said.

The wait can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.  The inmate who spoke with KOB said he knows, because he is part of the program and reports to the room twice a week for a drug test.

"If there was some sort of emergency, there would be no place to exit, rapidly," the inmate said.  "There would be no place to safely go because there are just too many of us in that space at one time."

KOB went over to the building to see what the room in the video looks like in person.  Inside, there are two rows of chairs, 20 seats total.  There are also two fire exits, but an officer's access key is required to open them.

When Captain Roy Hartman was asked how many people are typically in the room at a time, he said, "We try to keep it to the 20 seats in the morning," adding, it does get crowded at times.

"Our average case load is about 35 individuals," Hartman said.  "We do have some lower cases, so if you get one or two case loads that have to report, you're going to see the numbers go up a little bit, yes."

Metropolitan Detention Center Chief Ramon Rustin said, inmates are not required to all show up at the same time, but a lot of them do show up first thing in the morning because of school, counseling or other commitments.

"If it were a safety issue, I mean, they're free to go," Rustin said.  "Hopefully they'll complete the visit and the appointment, but again, they're not locked in that area; they're free to go."

But the inmates who crowd into the room think something needs to be done.

"It feels like we don't have any basic human rights... we don't have the right to be in a place safely," the inmate said.

The room is about to undergo some renovations, Hartman said, which will make room for seats for about 25 to 30 more people to help alleviate the crowding.

Rusin said he is also double-checking that the room meets all fire codes.