SANTA FE - New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Joe Williams made a statement to the press that, if proposed budget cuts are approved by Governor Bill Richardson, his department would be forced to close the CCA women's correctional facility here in Grants as well as the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman.
“This would affect between 530 and 660 inmates, who would be released before finishing their sentences, depending on how overcrowded the state-operated prisons become,” he said.
Williams noted that the governor had line item veto power over specific budget proposals. “He has until Nov. 12 to approve or veto the bill,” he said.
In a press release, the department stated, “The New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility is privately operated by the Corrections Corporation of America and incarcerates approximately 590 women. If the department terminates its contract with CCA, 430 male prisoners would be moved out of the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants to make room for 430 female prisoners who would be moved into WNMCF. The remaining 160 women would be early-released.
“The 430 men currently incarcerated at WNMCF would be moved to other state-operated prisons. CCA employs approximately 140 staff at the Grants facility.
“The state-operated Roswell Correctional Center currently incarcerates 270 inmates. If that prison closes, some of those inmates would be transported to other state-operated prisons, while some inmates would be early-released. RCC has 65 state employees, some of whom would be laid off.”
The department expressed concern about the early releases because of the burden it would place on the Probation and Parole Division. “Probation and Parole would reduce supervision of approximately 1,800 minimum/low risk offenders in order to concentrate on supervising early released high-risk offenders,” the statement reads.
Other potential cost cutting initiatives include:
• Cutting private prison contracts at Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs and Guadalupe County Correctional Facility in Santa Rosa.
• Reducing the inmate medical contract.
• Having probation and parole officers administer drug tests rather than a private laboratory.
• Reducing treatment contracts for probation/parole offenders by 10 percent.
• Reducing the food services contract, cutting calories from 3,400 to 3,000 per day.
The budget cuts were passed by the New Mexico State Legislature during the recent special session called by Governor Richardson. Except for education, all state agencies had a 7 percent reduction in their budgets.
If the women's facility is closed, it will be an economic blow to the Grants community.