County joins jail-expense lawsuit

By Jack King

Officials: Housing state prisoners is ruining budget.

Curry County Commissioners voted Tuesday to join a lawsuit aimed at forcing state officials to pay the costs of housing state prisoners in county jails.
It asks the court for a declaratory judgment that the defendants are liable for the cost of housing prisoners charged with state crimes and an injunction prohibiting them from incarcerating parole and probation violators in the county jail unless they are willing and able to compensate the county for the costs.
“I think the commissioners are saying it’s time we take a stand,” County Manager Geneva Cooper said Tuesday. “They are saying to the Corrections Department that we can’t continue to foot the bill for everything. We’re being overwhelmed and getting no relief from anyone.”
The suit was filed March 15 by the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners and the New Mexico Association of Counties against state Corrections Department Secretary Joe R. Williams, the state Department of Corrections, state Probation and Parole Division Director Charlene Knipfing, the state Probation and Parole Division and San Miguel County Probation and Parole Division Director John Doe.
In Curry County, officials have alleged an increased number of prisoners, many of whom are state-level inmates and probation and parole violators. The additional inmates are forcing an increase in jail costs that is ruining the county budget.
NMAC Executive Director Samuel Montoya said other counties statewide are considering joining the suit.