SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico’s state-run prison system has a $277 million backlog of needed infrastructure repairs, a new legislative report said
The Legislative Finance Committee report released Thursday says prisons have holes in cell walls and floors, and flawed electrical, plumbing and sewer systems, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The report said some of the problems could pose security threats to both inmates and correctional officers.
Limited state dollars and aging facilities are to blame.
The report recommended the construction of new housing units for inmates within the current prisons.
Corrections Department spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said the agency does not dispute most of the report’s findings.
“We agree that the prison system for years has not kept up with the deferred maintenance,” Tomlin said. “It’s like a continuous cycle where we can’t get caught up.”
Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said the department is creating a master plan looking at prison design issues and halfway houses or other alternative living arrangements.
New Mexico’s six state-run prisons – the state also has five privately operated prisons – are more than 36 years old on average.
In all, the estimated dollar amount of the maintenance backlog for New Mexico’s state-run prison system has increased from $181 million in 2005 to the current figure of $277 million.
That’s because, during the past decade, New Mexico spent less than half as much on prison maintenance needs as the national average, the legislative report found. Maine and Vermont were the only states to spend less money on prison infrastructure issues during that time, according to U.S. Department of Justice data.
Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the LFC’s vice chairman, said lawmakers are trying to deal with the issue.
“We’re trying to fix what has happened in the past,” Smith said during Thursday’s hearing in Las Cruces, before committee members took a tour of the 30-year old Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility.