Two federal judges plan to take a first-hand look this week at conditions inside Bernalillo County’s chronically overcrowded jail.
Senior U.S. District Judge James Parker and Magistrate Judge Alan Torgerson will tour the massive Metropolitan Detention Center as part of their role in a long-running civil-rights lawsuit filed 17 years ago. It won’t be their first visit.
Attorneys for the parties involved will be there, too.
The jail typically houses about 2,630 inmates, well above its 2,236-bed capacity, according to county officials.
The county administration hopes to launch a series of reforms — perhaps with alternatives to traditional incarceration for some inmates — but it’s unclear whether the plan will win support from other agencies.
In the meantime, the “McClendon” lawsuit — named after a former inmate — lingers on.
“It’s safe to say that the lawyers for (MDC) residents appreciate the court’s commitment to understanding the facts of the lawsuit, including to see for themselves the circumstances at the jail,” said Peter Cubra, an attorney who represents one class of inmates in the suit.
Jeffrey Baker, an attorney for the county, said he wasn’t “at liberty to discuss the judges’ plans.”
Parker, meanwhile, has ordered the appointment of three experts who will evaluate the conditions of confinement, health care and mental-health services at the jail.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal