There are more people in New Mexico’s county jails than in our state prisons, and some of them stay there for a long time.
In some cases, it’s a relief that they are locked up. In others, it’s a tragic waste of their lives and a pointless expense for taxpayers.
A report from the Association of Counties puts the total adult jail population at 7,030 males and 1,405 females, as of June 30, 2013, while the state prison population was 6,043 males and 652 females.
The report says the median length of stay for unsentenced inmates in 2010 was 147 days.
Conditions are not so good, we hear. Only six are accredited detention facilities.
It’s hard to imagine small cash-strapped jails offering high-quality mental health services, which many inmates need badly. The most notorious case — but not the only one — was Stephen Slevins, who was arrested in Doña Ana County for DWI and inexplicably locked in solitary for 22 months.
He eventually received a settlement of $15.5 million but still reportedly suffers mental disability as a result of his ordeal.
The regulation of bail is ripe for reform. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, announced that he will introduce a constitutional amendment regarding the bail process. The proposal has been endorsed by the State Supreme Court.