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New Jail Chief Talks Mental Health, Methadone

MDC Chief Phillip Greer

The Bernalillo County jail’s chief resigned more than nine months ago. Phillip Greer filled the position last month at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the 39th biggest jail in the country. Greer hails from Minnesota, where he was the executive director of corrections for three counties, and he has a background in assuring jails comply with national standards.  

The McClendon lawsuit has been hanging over the jail since it was filed in 1995 by mentally ill and developmentally disabled inmates who said overcrowding at the jail was a violation of their rights. Greer said overcrowding is not an issue at MDC today, because the jail has a 2,200-bed capacity and the population is hovering right below 1,700. That's the result of work in the overall criminal justice ecosystem, he said, including the courts, pre-trial services and the community custody program. 

Greer said mental health issues have been forwarded to jails nationwide, and MDC is lucky to have so many mental health resources. 

MDC is one of a handful of jails in the country that offers addicted inmates methadone. About a year ago, then-Chief Ramon Rustin said the program should be discontinued because of the expense. But Greer disagrees. He said inmates at MDC should continue to be given methadone because it helps people avoid relapsing and overdosing.

Civil lawsuits were filed against the jail this year because of an alleged sexual assault. In 2008, the Department of Justice named MDC the third worst in the country for staff-on-inmate victimization, according to the Albuquerque Journal. Greer said MDC has set up reporting hotlines, changed investigative techniques and made structural changes. "That is something that we are strongly dedicated to, is providing supervision in a humane way that protects people."

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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