Surge of arrests in the metro strains criminal justice system

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Arresting criminals is just the first step in tackling the crime crisis – but is the system ready for the influx of suspects?

On Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced officers in the Albuquerque metro arrested more than 500 people last month as a result of an operation to crack down on violent crime.

However, reps with the Public Defender’s Office say they don’t have enough attorneys for the infux of defendants. Officials with the Metropolitan Detention Center say it’s staffed at just 58%.

“Understanding the history of the problems that MDC has experienced the last few years, it does raise a red flag,” said Barron Jones, the ACLU’s investigation and research manager.

MDC has struggled to hire staff for years. Reps with the jail say they have 241 correctional officers out of 411 positions.

In September, bookings at the jail increased to an average of 53 per day. To prepare for the increase, Bernalillo County manager Julie Morgas Baca sent a letter to the governor in mid-September, requesting more than $2 million in emergency public health funding for MDC.

It states “to meet the increase in population, MDC will need to open four additional pods. These pods will require correctional foficers to supervise the inmates, creating additional posts and overtime.”

Barron says our communities need help and our system does too. He wants investments in behavioral health to lighten the load for all involved.

“We simply need to come up with a way to reduce the number of people coming into our prisons and jails,” Jones aid. “We all want to live in safe communities but it would be a fool’s errand to think we can arrest our way out of the problems our communities face.”

Morgas Baca also pointed to the capacity at MDC. She ays they will need to secure agreements with other jails to ensure they’re not overcrowded.

The secretary of the Department of Corrections told KOB 4 they haev taken dozens of the most “challenging” inmates to other facilities to lighten the load on MDC staff.

A spokesperson for the governor says they are reviewing the requests made for funding under hte public health order, but no word on what they will present at the session in January to support MDC.