AZTEC — The number of days Bloomfield and Farmington residents spent locked up at the San Juan County Detention Center after being sentenced by a municipal court judge increased by about 40 and 20 percent, respectively, during the last fiscal year, according to county documents.

The number of days Aztec residents were jailed because of municipal-court sentences decreased by 27 percent during the same period.

Municipal court judges in Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington only rule on misdemeanor crimes.

Most jailable offenses the judges see are for drunk driving, resisting or obstructing a police officer, battery and for failure to appear or take care of minor charges or citations, said Aztec Municipal Judge Carlton Gray.

Gray said the decreasing jail time from Aztec Municipal Court is because he often uses alternative sentences, such as an ankle-monitoring bracelet for house arrest or sentencing someone to the DWI treatment facility instead of jail.

"I use a lot of alternative sentences," Gray said. "Maybe it's just a difference in philosophy. I do still give jail time. If someone needs to be put in jail I will put them in jail."

Aztec residents spent 2,690 days in jail in the 2010-2011 fiscal year and 1,965 days in jail in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The city is on pace for 1,600 days in the current fiscal year, said Aztec City Manager Josh Ray.

When a municipal court judge sentences a person to the detention center, the defendant's city picks up the bill for the stay.


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County commissioners will vote tonight to increase the daily rate for an inmate to $70.13 for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which is a 3.5 percent increase from the year before and a 14 percent increase in the last five years, according to county documents.

Bloomfield saw a 43-percent increase in jail time for people sentenced in municipal court last year. City residents spent 1,572 in jail in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which ended in June.

Bloomfield residents accounted for 1,097 days in jail in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, according to county documents.

Farmington had a 20 percent increase in jail time for residents sentenced in municipal court. Farmington residents spent 25,200 days in jail in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which was more than 4,000 more days in jail than in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Bloomfield police Chief Mike Kovacs said Bloomfield police have given more attention to public intoxication in recent years, which may have led to an increase in misdemeanor crimes.

"We did target intoxicated individuals in the city limits ... and the police department did a great job enforcing the laws for urinating in public, graffiti, loitering and disorderly conduct," Kovacs said. "I think it's helped businesses and cut down on street inebriates."

Kovacs said there has not been an increase of violent crime in Bloomfield.

Overall, the average daily population at the detention center decreased by four percent — from 692 to 661 — in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, said Linda Thompson, the county's chief financial officer.

The decrease in inmates was attributed to the increase in cost to incarcerate each inmate, she said.

If the municipal courts sentence people to the same amount of days in the current fiscal year as the courts did in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Farmington would pay $1.8 million, Bloomfield would pay $110,000 and Aztec would pay $138,000, according to county documents.

Using alternative sentences can save cities money because the defendant covers their own cost for alcohol treatment or ankle-monitoring bracelets, for example.

But Grey said the savings to taxpayers doesn't influence his decision to sentence more people to alternative sentences instead of jail.

"I don't deal with dollars," he said. "My main job is to administer justice."