BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - When the feds suddenly decided to pull all of their inmates from the Sandoval County Detention Center, they took with them almost half of the jail's budget.
Now, the jail is hoping to win back the trust of the feds to save the people of Sandoval County millions of dollars.
A county spokesperson says they were able to cut some positions at the jail for now to make ends meet. Unless those federal inmates are shipped back to the jail, however, the costs could be steep for taxpayers.
Federal money covered nearly half the $7.5 million cost of maintaining the Sandoval County Detention Center when it housed federal prisoners. The county continues to be reimbursed for $1 million of that from local jurisdictions.
"Essentially that strategy allowed us to save taxpayers of Sandoval County about $3.5 million a year on a facility that the county is required to operate," says Sidney Hill, the county spokesperson.
Federal authorities moved all 190 of their prisoners out of the Sandoval County jail last year. They wouldn't say why, but two federal prisoners committed suicide at the jail within days of each other more than a year ago.
Now, the Feds are reviewing the county jail's policies.
"We have been working for quite a while now with the federal government," Hill continues. "We also have a consultant who is very well-versed in policies and procedures for housing federal inmates."
Hill says he is optimistic the county will be able to work out its problems and get federal prisoners back in the jail, hopefully by July 1 when the next budget year starts.
Otherwise, he says it could mean serious cuts.
"At this point, I really cannot say what those would be, but I do know budgets are being reviewed now, so there will be contingency plans made in the event that were to happen," Hill says.
Hill says federal officials will be at the jail next week for a final inspection, but there is still no telling when they will decide if jail can house federal prisoners again.
The Sandoval County jail housed federal inmates technically in the custody of U.S. Marshals Service who were awaiting trial or sentencing.
The marshal's service declined to comment for this story.
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