The Downtown Jail Back on the Agenda

Two weeks ago at the May 8th meeting of the Bernalillo County Commission, Commissioners voted 3 to 2 (with Hart-Stebbins and Lujan-Grisham voting in the negative) to require Commission approval for any expenditure from the County of Bernalillo Regional Corrections Center Fund. The $3.6 million fund was slated to be used for “Renovation of Old MDC.”

The reason that I proposed the amendment requiring approval is that the Commission has not determined what is to be done with the facility and DCM Swisstack has yet to produce a plan that would justify the use of those funds. I wanted to make sure that these funds didn’t find their way into a project that hadn’t been approved or reviewed by the Commission and that they were used in a responsible, thoughtful way. Apparently, County staff disagreed and has added an item to tonight’s agenda that would undo the Commission approval requirement.

The County’s Public Safety Department has thus far failed in its responsibility to create a plan for the facility. And if there’s one thing I have learned in my first year and a half as a County Commissioner is that pots of money that are left lying around get spent – whether or not the expenditure is justified.

Getting the population of the Metropolitan Detention Center under control is the TOP priority for the County. Currently, we are paying millions each year to house inmates that may not belong out at Hotel MDC. Historically, the Commission has given full authority to the DCM of Public Safety to solve the problems out at MDC. How’s that working out for us? I think the lack of results speak for themselves.

It’s well past time that the Commission take a more active role in solving our overcrowding problem at MDC. Requiring Commission approval for the expenditure of funds on the old jail is just one small step toward holding County bureaucrats accountable. Unless and until the folks over at Public Safety produce a plan that justifies their expenditures and outlines their efforts to reduce population, they will find me watching every move they make.