Curry County Detention Center overcrowded

CNJ Staff Photo: Eric Kluth Detention officer Patricia Rodriguez monitors prisoners in pod four Tuesday at the Curry County Detention Facility in Clovis

By Jack King

The Curry County Detention Center is overflowing again, Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine told county commissioners at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
The adult detention center was designed to house 208 prisoners. Burdine told the commissioners it was holding 230 prisoners Tuesday. By the end of the day, the center would send 60 prisoners to be housed in Dickens County, Texas, at a cost of $38 a day per prisoner, Burdine said.
Burdine said the increase in the jail population is because of recent changes in sentencing guidelines and other changes in the judicial system, which mean prisoners are not getting out of jail as quickly as they did in the past.
Compounding the problem is the building of a proposed detention center annex at 821 Main St. has been delayed because the state fire marshal’s office objected to its design, he said.
State Fire Marshal Inspector Randall Arnold said the original design of the annex, to be built in a former gymnasium, would have violated provisions of the National Fire Protection Association adopted by the state. Specifically, the design of the cells did not include an exit corridor protected from flames and smoke in case of a fire, he said.
“But even if the annex was built now, we would still be at capacity today, not over capacity, but at capacity. We probably need to look at other options than the annex,” he said.
Burdine said he would discuss new options to jail overcrowding with the county’s jail committee, composed of himself, County Manager Geneva Cooper, and Commissioners Tim Ashley and Pete Hulder.
In other business:
• Ashley told the commission he surveyed the Curry County Courthouse to find space to store 40 new voting machines due to arrive later this year. The solutions he found were either to store the machines in the county Treasurer’s Annex, to share space in other courthouse rooms, or to build temporary storage space on county-owned land at the corner of 8th and Main streets, he said.
• Commissioners approved an agreement with Lydick Engineers and Surveyors Inc. for preliminary work on a survey of the county fairgrounds to prepare for determining a site for the county convention center.
• County Clerk Mario Trujillo announced that absentee voting for the Sept. 23 special election begins on Aug. 26. The election will seek voter approval for Gov. Bill Richardson’s education reforms and a tax increase to fund county expenses.
• County Sheriff Roger Hatcher said he attended a meeting of the National Sentencing Commission Aug. 10-13 in Seattle, Wash., where he found counties nationwide suffer from inadequate funding for holding state prisoners. Next year’s meeting of the national group will be in Santa Fe, he said.