(Sidebar)Last night a call went out from MDC - there's no room at the in. Our Eyes tell us that APD dispatch informed officers that the Metropolitan Detention Center was full and could not take any new prisoners. A little while later, officers were told that MDC would be processing out some prisoners to make room but that it would be 3 to 4 hours before they could take any new prisoners.
Just to be clear, the primary function of a jail or a prison is not punishment - nor is it rehabilitation. If a would-be criminal views prison as punishment and is deterred from committing a criminal act, great! Likewise, if by some miracle a prisoner is "rehabilitated" while serving as a guest of the state, it's an unexpected benefit. But... the primary function of a detention facility is to protect the rest of us from those who would do us harm by keeping them separated from the general public. That's it and that's all.
We believe that building and operating jails with sufficient capacity to meet the detention needs of the community is a matter of public safety and therefore, a core function of government. Build more, build often and find ways to keep criminals away from the general public.
The first thing that ran through our mind was "who the heck are they kicking loose?" Assuming that there's a reason for a prisoner's detention, letting them go is a cause for concern. Apparently the "no vacancy" sign was only lit last night. But it underscores the on-going crime problem that we've got in the Albuquerque metro area and the dangerously high occupancy of the MDC.
If there are times when there's no room at the inn, it's time to build a bigger hotel - even if the addition is a tent city. Jail officials shouldn't be forced to release their "guests" early simply because they need the space.