ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Bernalillo County is still working to fix the ongoing over-crowding problem at the Metro Detention Center. County officials said they set a voluntary deadline of April 22 to get the population down to capacity, and that's fast approaching.
Last week, County commissioners dead-locked on a proposal to spend millions to send inmates to other jails. Since the funds aren't there, they're forced to look at other options.
Since 1995, Bernalillo County has been the target in a federal civil lawsuit regarding jail overcrowding. For 18 years, they've been working to resolve it and lower the population of inmates.
But even building the massive Metro Detention Center hasn't solved the problem. At a February status conference, County officials gave themselves a deadline of next week to bring the jail population at MDC down to capacity.
When the plan to fund the transfer of inmates failed to get commission approval last week, it was another speed bump. Tuesday, County administrators and jail administrators were meeting and discussing other ways to address the problem.
When asked if they'd make their voluntary deadline, Bernalillo County Commissioner for District 3, Maggie Hart Stebbins replied, "that's hard to say, we are looking at every single option, we are really scouring the lists of inmates to see if there's anybody else who can be safely handled."
"We do feel that we are close, probably the closest we've been in 18 years to a resolution, and so I think our legal team felt is was best that we made this voluntary effort rather than to do it under the direction of the court," added Stebbins.
An attorney representing the plaintiff told KRQE News 13 if the county doesn't bring population down by April 22nd, they'll likely ask the courts to intervene and mandate changes at the jail, such as prohibiting housing three inmates in a single cell.
County officials said if they can get population down voluntarily, they expect that will bring them closer to ending the lawsuit, which they said costs taxpayers roughly $1.5 million a year in legal fees alone.
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