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Bernalillo County jail population down to near design capacity

Bernalillo County Officials are reducing the population at the Metropolitan Detention Center by sending inmates to jails In New Mexico and Texas. (Journal File)
Bernalillo County Officials are reducing the population at the Metropolitan Detention Center by sending inmates to jails In New Mexico and Texas. (Journal File)
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Bernalillo County is awfully close to getting its inmate population down to the design capacity of the jail.

On Friday, the chronically overcrowded Metropolitan Detention Center had about 2,300 inmates. The county’s goal is to get the population below its designed capacity of 2,236 inmates.

That could happen as soon as next week, when the county moves another 118 inmates to other jails in New Mexico and Texas.

It’s difficult to know for certain whether the county will meet its population goal. The number of inmates fluctuates with every routine arrest and release.

The inmate transfers come as the county faces increasing legal pressure to relieve overcrowding inside the Metropolitan Detention Center. A federal judge has threatened to impose “substantial” daily fines until the county provides acceptable plans to address overcrowding and safety.

Jail spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell said Friday an emergency-response team is moving inmates to jails in Sandoval, Torrance and Polk counties. Polk is in eastern Texas.

After next week’s transfer, the county will have about 430 inmates housed at those jails.

The Bernalillo County jail system has been the focus of a federal civil-rights lawsuit since 1995.

Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker is pushing to get the litigation resolved.

In May, the Bernalillo County Commission authorized spending $6.8 million to house inmates outside the county through next summer. The transfers are intended to be temporary, as the county works with other criminal-justice agencies to find longer-term solutions.

Until this year, it had been four or five years since the county has last transferred inmates to other jails in New Mexico.

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