Definition of prisoner determines funding

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

Curry County Adult Detention Center officials said a recent ruling requiring the Department of Corrections to reimburse county jails for the cost of housing parole violators will only work in conjunction with changes in legislation.

Deputy Chief Warden Audrey Barriga said county officials have been working with detention center affiliates to try to pass the definition of a Department of Corrections inmate through legislation. She said she was not aware of any pending legislation.

“The Department of Corrections has a narrow definition of what a state prisoner is, and we want them to broaden that definition. By broadening that definition we might get more (money),” Barriga said.

For instance, parolees arrested for a DWI technically are parole violators but are being held by the local district charging them, creating questions of responsibility.
Reimbursements to Curry County for housing state prisoners range from $500 to $2,500 a month, Barriga said.

“Anytime the judge says the DoC is responsible for their inmates, the decision is helpful to us, it truly is … (but) we need a good definition — we need something we can all go by then we can all benefit from it,” she said. “I know that we’d get thousands easily. I don’t know that we’d get a million but I’d be pushing for it.”
Barriga said most of Curry County’s more than 200 inmates fall under the county’s jurisdiction.

The recent court ruling resulted from a lawsuit levied against the Department of Corrections by San Miguel County. Victor Marshall, an attorney for the New Mexico Association of Counties, said the ruling will save counties around the state an estimated $5 million a year.

The department is financially responsible for a convicted felon “whether he is imprisoned at the state penitentiary, on parole or rearrested as a parole violator,” the court said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report