ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Bernalillo County Commissioners will take up another proposal this week to fix the jail overcrowding problem at the Metro Detention Center.
While the proposal isn't much different than one commissioners recently reviewed, the idea is back in front of the board again because of presumed pressure from a federal magistrate judge to end the lawsuit and the outcome of the proposal may now be different.
Bernalillo County is in the midst of settling a lawsuit filed in 1995 by jail inmate Jimmy McClendon, who claimed the old downtown Albuquerque jail was overcrowded and that inmates weren't getting the medical treatment they needed. The lawsuit includes any former, current or future inmates.
A recent proposal to fix overcrowding issues failed in April when Bernalillo County commissioners deadlocked in a two to two vote.
But the proposal is back, even though feelings on the commission are similar.
"I don't know whether it's the best course of action," said commissioner Wayne Johnson, who opposed the proposal in April
"It makes sense if we can do this (solve the overcrowding problem) voluntarily," said commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, who supported the April proposal.
This Tuesday, Bernalillo commissioner will vote on whether or not to authorize spending more than 7 million dollars through July 2014 to ship up to 300 inmates to other counties in New Mexico and Texas.
Commissioner Wayne Johnson says he's still against the plan.
"If we ship them out, we're not guaranteed that that will satisfy the conditions of that lawsuit and get us out of that lawsuit," said Johnson.
Johnson says he'd like to see the judicial system move faster, pointing to a study by the non-profit called the "National Center for State Courts" that showed in 2010, Bernalillo County felons spent an average 445 days in MDC from arrest to a case outcome. According to the report, the national average for similar sized counties in 2006 was just 92 days.
"Felons make up almost half of our population, either pre-trial or post adjudication at MDC," said Johnson.
Meanwhile, Maggie Hart Stebbins says she'll support the latest proposal and believes the outcome may be different this time.
"I'm optimistic that it will pass," said Hart Stebbins.
All five commissioners are expected to participate in Tuesday's vote, including Lonnie Talbert who was absent at the last vote. Commissioners also recently met a federal magistrate judge about solving the case. Nothing has happened yet but the judge could order them to capacity immediately. So Hart-Stebbins says it's time to solve the problem now before the county is ordered to.
"I would prefer to be in a position where we could respond very quickly," said Hart Stebbins.
However, Johnson says it's not fair to the tax payer.
"I don't think the public should be forced into a situation again because of the inefficient criminal justice system," said Johnson.
KRQE News 13 spoke to Talbert over the phone Sunday evening but he would not give any inclination into which way he will vote.
Commissioners cannot comment on the status of the settlement conferences because the judge has placed the case under a gag-order.
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