ALAMOSA — Alamosa County Sheriff Dave Stong said rising jail costs are making it cheaper to send prisoners to other facilities because the county is getting a "cut-rate deal," based on the rising number of county prisoners.
The jail, which opened in 1986, was originally designed to house 50 inmates, based on federal standards that require 25 square feet of space per inmate.
Since then, the facility expanded by another 36 bunks, but as of last month, the jail was putting its remaining overflow of inmates on cots and even mats on the floor.
On any given day now, the Alamosa County Detention Center houses about 90 detainees, and it's farming another 30 inmates on average out to jails in Conejos, Costilla, Chaffee and Bent counties.
In 2012, the county's public safety expenses rose to just under $3.3 million, a 14 percent increase over the year before.
Stong said it's actually cheaper to send those people to other facilities at a daily cost of $40 per inmate.
"They've kind of given us a cut-rate deal," he said.
Bent County commissioner Bill Long said Tuesday his county jail has extra room, and sharing the costs benefits both counties.
Stong said it costs about $63 to house one inmate at the Alamosa County Detention Center for a 24-hour period, due to higher costs for utilities, maintenance and other expenses to maintain the aging facility.
Stong is also exploring the possibility of converting all of the jail's beds into triple bunks, which would allow it to house up to 120 inmates on site, but it would require him to hire more guards.
In the meantime, the jail no longer accepts people who are arrested for misdemeanor offenses or drunken driving, with few exceptions.
The jail is also releasing low-risk inmates to private probation and intensive home supervision, which eliminates the county's obligations to feed and house those people.
Information from: Valley Courier, http://www.alamosanews.com/