L.A. County might get more inmates

-A A +A
By Jennifer Garcia

Los Alamos County might soon see an influx of inmates in their jail, following an agreement with Española for inmate confinement.

The agreement would allow inmates from Española to be held in the Los Alamos County Detention Facility on a short-term basis.

Española is in need of short-term incarceration for inmates arrested in the city or sentenced to confinement in the Española jail, due to the abandonment of the old detention facility.

The city is currently constructing a new jail facility, however, because of lack of space, some inmates are being transported to jails in Gallup, Grants and Farmington for short-term incarceration.

Housing inmates in jails that are so far from Española has not been cost effective for the city since Española is responsible for transporting the inmates to and from the jails, in addition to paying the detention centers a fee per inmate per day.

According to the agreement, Española inmates would be transported to Los Alamos by Española city police and would only be accepted on a space-available basis.

The jail superintendent would have discretion in accepting inmates and only adult male inmates would be accepted and no inmate detoxing from drugs or alcohol would be accepted into the L.A. County Detention Center.

Also, inmates will not be housed for more than five days.

Capt. Randy Foster and Police Chief Wayne Torpy were on hand at Tuesday night’s County Council meeting in White Rock to present council with the agreement between Los Alamos County and the City of Española.

Foster told council that housing inmates would not cost the county anything. He said that the county pays the same amount per inmate, regardless of how many are in the jail.

“There is no cost to Los Alamos County. It currently costs $15 a day to provide inmates with three meals,” he said.

Foster also said that the agreement would be valid until June 30, 2010, at which time the agreement could be renegotiated, however, he said that the Española jail should be finished by then.

“It’s a win/win for everyone,” Foster said.

According to the agreement, Española would be paying Los Alamos County $85 per inmate per day, which would mean $25,000 to $75,000 per year in revenue for the county.

Either party could terminate the agreement at any time by giving written notice to the other party at least 60 days prior to the intended date of termination.

In addition, either party could initiate renegotiation of the agreement by providing written notice at least 60 days prior to the end of the fiscal year.

Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson was concerned about what would happen if Española’s inmates required off-site medical care.

He wanted to know if inmates would be taken to Española Hospital, or if they would be treated at Los Alamos Medical Center.

“Medical treatment would be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Foster said.

Councilor Frances Berting expressed her concern about who would be liable in case something should happen to the Española inmates.

“Things happen in jails. If something should happen, who’s responsible, should there be a problem?” Berting queried.

Torpy referred the question to County Attorney Mary McInerny for an answer.

“It would depend on what happened,” McInerny said. “Unless it was something that we did, Española would be responsible. We’re both insured by the same insurer, so I’m sure something could be worked out.”

County Administrator Max Baker said that this item is not expected to come back to Council, as he has the authority to execute it.