US prison
More than 1,000 prisoners in New Mexico are held in jail even though they have been granted parole - Representational image Reuters

More than 1,000 prisoners in New Mexico are held in jail due to red tape and the shortage of accommodation even though they have been granted parole .

New Mexico Corrections Department keeps this number of prisoners in what is called "in-house parole", while several other US states are dogged by the same problem, according to a report by the Associated Press.

In the most extreme cases inmates serve out their entire sentence in jail, even though their good behaviour record meant they should have been released halfway through their terms.

It costs the state an extra $10.6m a year to incarcerate more than a thousand inmates, who should be out of prison attempting to reintegrate themselves back into society.

A key part of the problem is that inmates approaching parole must find suitable housing for felons, but there is a shortage of charity or state halfway houses they are required to live in.

Another problem is that the overworked prison system often leads to paperwork backlogs that take months or years to clear.

'Cruel' system

New Mexico parole board executive director Joann Martinez said: "They [prisoner cases] get scratched from the docket when we're missing paperwork. If we don't have that for the parole board, the case can't move forward."

Sheila Lewis, a defence attorney in Santa Fe and former director of the New Mexico Women's Justice Project, branded the delays "cruel".

She said: "Imagine someone sitting there all those years thinking about that date.

"I think it's psychologically cruel to tell somebody that if you follow all the rules and you don't lose any of your good time, you'll be out in time for your son's graduation from high school and they look forward to it. And they miss it."

One prisoner caught up in the tangled system was Joleen Valencia who was handed a two-year sentence for drug-trafficking in the spring of 2015.

The 50-year-old had been set for release on 13 July 2016 for good behaviour. However, due to a lack of suitable accommodation Valencia was not finally released on parole until 17 October 2016, when a halfway house was finally found for her in Albuquerque.

New Mexico, working together with local charities, recently added 30 more halfway house places for women. It has also begun issuing fines to private prison firms who misplace prisoner records.

The state fined Nashville-based private jailer CoreCivic $19,150 in July 2016 for keeping 15 women, including Valencia, inside the Northwestern New Mexico Correctional Facility beyond their release dates.

However, CoreCivic reported revenue of $1.3bn on net income of $137m in the nine months to the end of September.

Most critics agree that a bigger sledgehammer is needed to crack the nut of thousands of inmates held beyond their parole dates.