Jail back in use

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Curry County Detention Center Warden Leslie Johnson takes a look at the renovated women’s jail, which will house 58 inmates.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A renovation project that took more than four months to create a separate women’s facility at the Curry County Detention Center is complete.

Curry County female inmates returned Tuesday to the remodeled 58-inmate facility after being housed in nearby county jails since April.
Fresh paint, carpeting and furniture are all part of approximately $75,000 in renovations, Warden Leslie Johnson said. The funds were drawn from a state capital outlay grant, Curry County Manager Dick Smith said.

Located east of the main building, the annex formerly housed 27 of the jail’s most aggressive male inmates.

Curry County houses an average of 50 female inmates. Previously they were housed in a single pod within the main jail.

The separate facility was needed to accommodate a growing female inmate population, Johnson said.

The renovation includes rooms without doors, a dormitory-style bunk area and a handful of cells that can be locked down.

There is also a dayroom with couches, tables and a television. A separate classroom will host programs to help educate inmates on life skills, anger management and other concepts aimed at curbing recidivism.

Johnson said creating a more comfortable environment and allowing greater freedom of movement encourages respect for other inmates and the facility.

Renovated supervision techniques will blend with the structural changes, and are modeled after a concept that emerged in prisons more than 30 years ago. The women will be under direct supervision, meaning detention officers will be in the living areas with them 24-hours a day.

“Historically it has been proven, by and large, good jails have direct supervision,” she said.

Under other supervision models, officers are detached, either supervising from hallways or from a protected control center, and are often placed in a reactionary position.

“It becomes an us-and-them situation,” Johnson said.

Smith said direct supervision is intended to be preventative.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll have fewer incidents, and it will cost us a lot less money in the long run,” he said.