Detention center could gain new purpose

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The founder of a drug and alcohol rehab program is hoping to turn an old Albuquerque detention center into a secure, residential treatment facility for New Mexico addicts in the near future.

Renovations of the old jail have yet to begin, according to Second Chances founder Rick Kenery. At this stage in the project, he said it is hard to predict when the center will open.

The title to the building was transferred last week, although the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center was relocated about five years ago, according to a jail division manager, Adan Carriaga.

Local officials trumpet the possibilities of the center, which would allow judges to send repeat offenders addicted to drugs or alcohol for treatment with the goal of curbing jail overcrowding.

“I absolutely think this is a godsend,” said Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, a staunch advocate of alternative sentencing. “Our prisons are bursting at the seams. We have a revolving door system.

“As soon as (inmates) get out, they are back in because we have not cured their alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine addictions.”

Enacted roughly three years ago through state legislation, the rehab avenue isn’t exactly a novice one, Crook said. But in Clovis, Curry County, and elsewhere, the legislation lulled in a stalemate with no secured place to send offenders with substance abuse problems.

Sending Clovis and Curry County inmates to the Albuquerque rehab center would cost $50 per day, according to Curry County Assistant Manager Lance Pyle. The county adult detention center, however, is already overburdened as a number of inmates are housed in other counties. Housing an inmate elsewhere siphons an average of about $40 a per day from county coffers, Pyle said. More than half of the county budget is consumed by law enforcement operations, county officials have said.

“Anytime we can send an inmate to get treatment, that is excellent,” Pyle said.

The county would save money in the long run by utilizing the Albuquerque center, as it would address a major source of recidivism, Pyle said.

New Mexico judges are in favor of the project, Kenery said.

“A lot of judges have told us that when they sentence people, they know they should be in rehab, but because of their background, they cannot be sent to a rehab center because it is not secure,” Kenery said.

“So, the system is not working that well.”