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Jail inmate count nears capacity

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BERNALILLO — The inmate population at the Sandoval County Detention Center has risen every month since July with the influx of prisoners from other jurisdictions, according to a progress report made to the Sandoval County Commission on Thursday.

Detention Center Director Al Casamento said now that the jail is housing inmates from Bernalillo County and the U.S. Marshals Service, the inmate population has gone from 244 in July to 361 this month.

About 120 inmates in the current population are being held on behalf of Bernalillo’s Metropolitan Detention Center and there are between 70 and 75 federal inmates. The county is reimbursed for housing those inmates. The remaining inmates, about 170 people, are housed for the state, Bureau of Indian Affairs or the county, for which there are no per-diem reimbursements, he said.

The jail’s capacity could increase, however, if more beds are installed on the west side of the facilities. There will also be 37 additional cells available when electronic doors are installed, which is an ongoing project, he said.

The additional capacity would help the jail reduce its operating expenses. Bernalillo County reimburses Sandoval Count at a rate of $62 per day per inmate. The U.S. Marshals Service payment is a few dollars more, but Casamento said billing is done in a different way on that account, which makes that number more difficult to pin down.

Casamento said he wants to renegotiate the contracts and get more money per inmate so that federal inmates are billed at a rate of $70 per day and Bernalillo County inmates are billed at $67.

It costs about $7.5 million a year to house the county’s inmates with no reimbursements. The county has projected that cost will be reduced by about $4 million this fiscal year, thanks to housing inmates from outside entities.

The detention center is also looking at inviting a charter school to the jail for the inmates, he said.

The school, Gordon Bernell Charter School, has a similar program at Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, known as the MDC Campus. Casamento said the program is chartered under Albuquerque Public Schools, meaning there could be some special permissions and paperwork required for the charter school to hold classes outside of that district.

Casamento said the detention center has no plans to get involved in those details, however. He said all the center would have to provide is a space with a camera for a guard to watch the inmates and an Internet connection so the teachers can submit grades online.

The corrections department would use the classes as a privilege and an incentive for inmates to stay out of trouble, or “behavior modification,” Casamento said.

 

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