In order to reduce the jail population in the Rio Arriba County Adult Detention Center, the County has been sending more people home with ankle monitoring bracelets.
Jails have become hotbeds for the Coronavirus during the pandemic. The Council on Criminal Justice, in its December report found that 12 percent of persons in a prison had recovered from or were experiencing COVID-19. The non-prison population has experienced COVID-19 at roughly 3 percent. The Council also found the death rate from COVID-19 for inmates was almost double the national average.
The monitoring program has been paid for through the CARES Act and has been costing the County anywhere from $12,000 to $15,000 a month and has just under 40 participants according to County Economic Development Director Chris Madrid.
“There is client pay but it’s completely nominal, it covers $5 to $10 per month total,” Madrid said.
The County had been sending inmates home with ankle monitors since March, according to Madrid. The costs were something that were mounting quickly and CARES Act funds allowed the County to pay off those debts as well as fund them through the rest of the year.
The monitoring bracelets are contracted through Human Resource Development Associates, Inc. which also handles some drug testing for the County.
In April the County paid $8,325 to Human Resource Development Associates, Inc. In May the County paid $10,935, June $11,151, July $11,393, August $14,562, September $14,203, October $13,163 and $14,852 in November. Madrid said he expected the costs to gradually increase over time.
This excludes the costs of drug testing when listed due to drug testing being used for reasons beyond ankle monitoring.
Barron Jones, the senior policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said he thought the County paying for home monitoring was a good idea.
“Sometimes these fees can be burdensome and can lead to people going back to jail,” Jones said.
Jones, who was a Rio Grande SUN County reporter for two years, also said that getting people out of the jail in Tierra Amarilla was also a good result of this usage of CARES Act funds.
“The state of the Rio Arriba County Jail, it’s shocking all the deaths that take place in that jail,’ he said. “Having adequate medical care in detention is tough enough as is, some place 80 miles out only increases it.”
Jones said the ACLU of New Mexico was currently pushing legislation that would eliminate a variety of legal system fees including those for ankle monitors.
“More jails across the state should be doing things to lower their population,” Jones said.