Jail overcrowding puts strain on families

A Curry County Adult Detention Center inmate watches television as another mops the floor in Pod 6 on Friday morning. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

When Tommy Arguello’s 27-year-old son Thomas was arrested in August and held at the adult detention center in Clovis, they would see each other twice each week.

Not anymore.

Overcrowding at the Curry County Detention forced Thomas to a jail in Parmer County for about three months.

In January Thomas was transferred to the Dickens County Detention Center in Spur, Texas, located roughly 170 miles east of Clovis.

Arguello said the Dickens County jail has only allowed the mother to visit but arrangements have been made to allow him a visit as well. He plans to see his son once a week.

Visiting hours are on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“If I had it my way I would have him here in Farwell or Clovis,” Arguello said. “It really inconvenienced us sending him to Spur, Texas.”

Arguello’s son is one of 127 inmates who have been sent from Curry County to the Spur jail, costing the taxpayer $38 per day per inmate. Curry County Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said it cost about $30 per day to house an inmate in Clovis.

Curry County Manager Geneva Cooper said the overcrowding boom began about a year and a half ago and attributes much of the problem to new state laws requiring extended jail stays.

“All the new laws seem to dictate more jail time,” Cooper said. “It is a big problem that nobody was expecting.”

And until a fix is found, Curry County inmates will continue to be shuffled elsewhere.

Vincent Richards’ son’s ex-wife, Susan Mize, is also being held in Spur. Richards said his son and Mize plan to remarry when she is released. He said Mize has been behind bars for 72 days with about 50 of those in Spur.

While Richards and his son are not allowed to visit Mize because they are not family, phone calls have become expensive.

Richards and his son live in Bard, between Logan and San Jon. He said the connection fee for a collect call from Dickens County is $10 and phone bills have reached more than $300.

The jail, he said, does not allow calling or a choice of collect calling options.

“She has no one else to depend on except my son,” Richards said. “Our hope is that it is going to cap out but our fear it is not going to.”

There may be a bright side to the relocation for some inmates.

Arguello said his son has found maintenance work at the Spur facility and as a result has his own cell — and privacy.
But Arguello said he still feels cheated, that he is not able to see his son on a more regular basis.

“They get booked here and transferred to another state. I find that hard to understand,” he said. “We can’t afford a new facility here but we can pay to move them to another state.”