About half of New Mexico’s paroled inmates return to prison within five years, according to a legislative audit reported by the Associated Press. By reducing inmate recidivism, the state can save money on corrections and slow a growing prison population, the audit found. If nothing is done, New Mexico will run out of prison space within in the next decade and will have to consider building a new prison or expanding existing ones, according to the audit by the Legislative Finance Committee.
The population of male inmates will exceed prison capacity in about seven years, based on current growth trends. Auditors said the average cost of an inmate is $34,000 a year in New Mexico. On average, 53 percent of New Mexico inmates return to prison within five years of their release, the report said. Currently, 44 percent of prison inmates are what auditors described as “returning offenders” who have an average of three prison stays. A recent survey found that a national average of 43 percent of inmates released in 2004 were back in prison within three years.