Sandoval County began to take in federal inmates as of Tuesday, according to a news release from county spokesman Sidney Hill.
Sandoval County Detention Center Director Al Casamento might have the county facility ready to take on as many as 32 federal inmates at a rate of $67 per inmate per day over the next two weeks, Hill said.
The county has been working to prepare the facility to win back a contract for U.S. Marshals Service prisoners for more than a year.
The federal government stopped using Sandoval County to house its prisoners after three suicides occurred at the jail in December 2011 and March 2012.
When the Marshals Service — which paid the county to keep the prisoners — removed its inmates from the detention center, there was an increase in operating costs for the county. During the fiscal year that ended June 30, the county was forced to make a mid-year budget adjustment and each department was asked to reduce its budget by about 5 percent.
It costs about $7.5 million a year to house county inmates, which are generally people awaiting trial. In previous years, when the federal contract was in place, the cost for the county to house prisoners was down to $4 million, according to Casamento.
The county inmate population is only about 170 inmates, but the facility's capacity is about 380. The county has also recently accepted inmates from Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. Sandoval County is using the extra cells at its facility to help Bernalillo County alleviate overcrowding. Sandoval County currently houses 82 Bernalillo County inmates and an additional 48 inmates are expected within the next two weeks.
Bernalillo County pays Sandoval County about $62 a day per inmate. Hill did not provide information by press time about what the county is paid to house federal prisoners. As Sandoval County's jail goes to full capacity, additional staff is required to provide inmates with needed services and security. Casamento said he has been steadily hiring new employees.
Tom Swisstack, Bernalillo County's deputy public safety manager and mayor of Rio Rancho, said he is willing to transfer as many inmates to Sandoval County as the facility can take.
"If they could take 180 inmates tomorrow, I'd send them 180 inmates tomorrow," Swisstack said.