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NM Counties Want Municipalities To Pay More For Detention Centers

Kevin Meerschaert
New Mexico Counties General Counsel Grace Philips speaks to members of the Courts, Corrections, and Justice Committee in the NM House Chambers.

New Mexico lawmakers are being told state and municipal law enforcement agencies aren’t paying their fair share when it comes to the use of county detention facilities.

Members of the Courts, Corrections, and Justice Committee heard that while the number of detention bookings in New Mexico counties has fallen since 2018, the detention population has increased.

In a report presented to lawmakers on Wednesday, New Mexico Counties General Counsel Grace Philips said while municipalities are often responsible for around a quarter of bookings, the counties are picking up around 90-percent of the costs of operating detention centers.

She says the municipalities need to be more involved in the funding of jails.

“If you don’t have skin in the game with the resource and eventually I’m going to you ‘we need to be very careful about how we are using this resource’ because if we want to keep people safe we want to be responsible with it. We really can’t just hold people who don’t need to be held there.”      

Another issue that is severely impacting many counties is the staff vacancy rate at many facilities.

Committee co-chair Senator Joseph Cervantes says it can be connected to the increase in innate suicides the past several months since there are fewer people to keep an eye on at-risk individuals.

For example Bernalillo County Corrections has seen an increase of its staff vacancy rate from just under 38-percent to 50-percent from May to August of 2022. Cervantes says the vacancy numbers should shock everybody. 

Kevin Meerschaert comes to Santa Fe from Jacksonville, Florida where he spent the past 20 years covering politics, government and pretty much everything else.