- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Bernalillo County is nearing an agreement that could end a 20-year legal battle over crowding and other conditions in its jail system.

County commissioners and attorneys representing jail inmates have approved the agreement and are awaiting final approval from a U.S. District Court judge, according to The Albuquerque Journal (https://goo.gl/xxotbI). The settlement outlines steps the jail would be required to take for the suit to be dismissed.

“If this settlement agreement is approved by (Senior U.S. District Judge James Parker), it will provide a specific, systemic road map to ending what is now a 20-year-old lawsuit,” County Commission Chairwoman Maggie Hart Stebbins said

The 89-page proposed settlement was obtained by the Journal Tuesday through a records request.

The proposed settlement would cap the jail population at 1,950 inmates and prohibit holding three inmates in cells that are designed for two. Other measures include calling experts to help evaluate conditions inside the Metropolitan Detention Center such as how mental health and medical services are handled and the use of force and sexual misconduct.

Inmates filed the class-action lawsuit in 1995, alleging that jail conditions violated their constitutional rights. The lawsuit continued even after the county shut down its Downtown jail and moved inmates to a new jail west of Albuquerque.

The county estimates it spends about $1 million a year on legal fees related to the suit.

The new jail has 2,236 beds, although the operating capacity is 1,950 inmates. More than 2,600 inmates have been housed in the facility at a time.

The population was down to 1,457 inmates as of Tuesday.

The proposed settlement has not been scheduled for a hearing before Judge Parker.

Inmates are expected to have an opportunity to comment on whether the proposed agreement is acceptable. Attorneys for the inmates had no comment Tuesday.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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