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New inmates mean more revenue at jail

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The Sandoval County Detention Center expects to double the number of prisoners it has taken in from Bernalillo County’s Metropolitan Detention Center since last month.

The county so far has accepted 48 prisoners and is being paid $62 per day per prisoner. That will add up to about $1 million in additional revenue this year, according to county spokesman Sidney Hill.

Hill did not have a breakdown of the added costs to house the inmates, but said it is “being more than offset” by the payments from Bernalillo County.

“I just learned that we are in the process of working out details to take another 48 inmates from Bernalillo County. They are expected to arrive next week,” Hill said in an email Monday. “In anticipation of that increase, the detention center has hired 13 new corrections officers. Staff also is continuing to review candidates for positions that may open up as the population increases further.”

The Sandoval County facility has ample room for new prisoners. The inmate population, not counting prisoners from Bernalillo County, is about 170. The facility’s full capacity is 380.

The Bernalillo County jail, though, is overcrowded. To relieve the situation, the Bernalillo County Commission approved up to $6.8 million for the current fiscal year to transfer about 300 inmates to the Sandoval County facility and a handful of other detention centers in New Mexico.

Part of the cost of housing inmates in Sandoval County is medical services, which are being provided through a nearly $909,000 contract with Correctional Healthcare Companies. Hill said that cost is relatively fixed. The county began contracting for medical services this year, a move that could save the county about $135,000 a year and will give the jail a dedicated medical organization to take care of prescriptions and medical care.

Sandoval County has also made moves to win back a contract to house prisoners from the U.S. Marshals Service. The county lost the federal contract after several suicides at the jail and has been working for well over a year to get the contract back.

A federal prison contract could make a significant difference in the county budget. It costs about $7.5 million a year to house the county’s prisoners, but if the jail wins back the federal contract, the cost will go down to $4 million, officials estimate.

During the past fiscal year, the county was forced to make a mid-year budget adjustment to cover the jail operation and each department was asked to reduce its budget by about 5 percent, according to Hill.

Although the county has made a number of changes to comply with a list of requirements from the Marshals Service, the county has not yet been presented with a new contract. Hill said he doesn’t know when one might be in place.

“I wish I knew,” he said. “When they’re ready, they’re ready, I guess.”

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