The New Mexico Corrections Department says it could be forced to close two prisons and give early releases to as many as 660 inmates, if Gov. Bill Richardson were to sign the budget cuts passed by the Legislature last week.
Cuts in the department amount to $21 million, officials said in a release.
"This is a hard pill to swallow, but we don’t have any other choice. When I met with Governor Richardson yesterday, I told him that closing prisons is the only way we can significantly reduce our budget,” Secretary of Corrections Joe R. Williams said in a statement.
The department says it would have to close the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants and the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman if the cuts stand.
Even if it took those actions, along with other cost-savings initiatives, the department still would be about $2 million short of the $21 million in cuts, it said. To make up the difference, employee furloughs "would have to be considered."
Whether Richardson allows these cuts to go through or vetoes them remains to be seen. He has until Nov. 12 to act.