The state Department of Corrections plans to house sex offenders at a prison in Grants and move the women inmates now housed there to two different prisons.

Crowding at the state’s only prison for women is the reason behind the changes. In a domino effect, moving women prisoners from Grants will cause hundreds of other inmates to be shifted to different prisons.

Female inmates from the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants would be transferred to one of two prisons: The nearby Western New Mexico Correctional Facility or the Springer Correctional Facility, which is 300 miles away from the Grants prison, said Ashley Espinoza, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Corrections Department.

With the change, the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility and the Springer Correctional Facility will be dedicated to housing only female inmates, she said. The state will move the male inmates from those prisons to facilities across the state. The combined average daily population of those prisons is about 500 inmates.

Espinoza said the reason behind moving female inmates is that is they constitute the fastest-growing prison population in the state.

In addition, she said, housing all the male sex offenders at Grants will allow them to receive treatment in one setting.

Corrections Corporation of America now manages the prison for female inmates. Espinoza said the department will seek proposals in coming months from private companies that want to manage the proposed male-only sex offender facility in Grants. Male sex offenders currently number about 1,200 in New Mexico prisons, she said.

Miles Conway, a spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18, said the union opposes a private company managing the prison for sex offenders.

“Our officers have conveyed to me that they’re very concerned about that because of the level of staffing that’s going on at the private facilities,” he said.

Espinoza said about 450 male sex offenders now are held at a prison in Otero County. The remaining 750 are scattered at prisons across the state.

She said corrections officials are planning to make the moves within three to four months.

Justin Horwath can be reached at 505-986-3017 or jhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.

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