ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Bernalillo County’s jail is calling it a state of emergency. The Metropolitan Detention Center has always had staffing issues, but this shortage is dramatic. MDC declared a state of emergency on June 4. A week later, the jail’s chief declared an emergency again. Now, the county jail is facing a 51 percent staff vacancy rate. Those levels are too high to properly look after inmates.

“It’s especially true on the weekends. Our staffing challenges seem to be a little more challenging, so if the jail staff is low enough we are going to call some people in. That’s when the chief utilizes the tool that he has at his discretion, the state of emergency,” said Bernalillo County Communications Director, Tia Bland. The county says the dire staffing shortage has corrections officers working a lot of overtime. Right now, MDC has about 1,418 inmates which is almost three-quarters full.

As to what’s causing the corrections facility to be short-staffed? Bland says it’s a competitive industry, but the detention center does offer new recruits $2,000 worth of incentives for new hires and $18.90 an hour. That’s more than what neighboring Sandoval County pays and just $1 less than the state’s starting pay for corrections officers. The county is trying to figure out better ways to recruit.

“Pay, vacation, the number of hours, correctional officers work, all these elements are being looked at to brainstorm to see how we can recruit,” said Bland. Bland says MDC has been offering double pay to officers on weekends where they are seeing the most staffing challenges. We asked the county how many officers the jail needs, they said they won’t reveal that number for security reasons, just reiterating the jail only has half the staffing it should.