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8:40am — Population Explosion at Bernalillo County, Grant County Jails

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Big jail west of ABQ, smaller Silver City facility both at 120 percent of capacity.

The Metropolitan Detention Center west of Albuquerque is designed for a total capacity of around 2,200 inmates but more than 2,600 people are locked up there right now, KOB-TV reported.

“The recommendation if about 90 percent capacity. We’re at about 120 percent,” Chief of Corrections Ronald Torres told Eyewitness News 4.

And a smaller jail down south — the Grant County Detention Center in Silver City — is also bursting at the seams, also at about 120 percent of capacity, according to the Silver City Sun-News.

The Grant County lockup that was built for 72 inmates was housing 90 prisoners as of Tuesday morning, outgoing jail administrator Jim Moffett told Grant County commissioners, the Sun-News said.

“We have every bit of that jail stuffed with people,” said Moffett, who said it was the highest number of inmates housed at the facility during his two-year tenure.

Moffett told the Sun-News that the jail was only designed to hold 56 males and 16 females, but on Tuesday was housing 75 males and 15 female inmates.

“It’s hard to handle the different populations,” Moffett said. “We’re using the juvenile facility to hold the sex offenders.”

Moffett also said the jail staff is currently down five officers, adding to the challenges he’s facing, and that jail officers have been on emergency 12-hour shifts for a while, the Sun-News said.

Back in Bernalillo County, the jail population is likely to grow, since Metropolitan Court, beginning in October, will no longer do Saturday arraignments, meaning inmates will have to spend more time behind bars before seeing a judge, KOB-TV reported.

Tom Swisstack, who is Bernalillo County’s interim public safety director as well as serving as mayor of Rio Rancho, told Eyewitness News 4 he is working on a 30-point plan he hopes to unveil next week that could help some inmates move out of the jail and into specialized alternative programs.

“What we’re trying to do is tie a system together on the adult side, between the Metropolitan Detention Center, our Community Custody Program and our mental health programs,” Swisstack told KOB-TV.

While Swisstack didn’t speculate on why the jail population has grown, Moffett said in Silver City that he believes the increase in arrests are tied to the tough economic times and high unemployment in Grant County, the Sun-News said.

“I think we’re seeing a delayed reaction to this,” Moffett said. “We’ve been somewhat surprised that we haven’t seen these numbers before.”

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