Prisoners relocated to allow for detention officer training

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

More than a third of the inmates at the Curry County jail have been relocated to other facilities to allow for training of detention officers.

Undersheriff Wesley Waller said Monday the transportation of inmates is complete and there are approximately 165 inmates remaining at the jail, he said.

Friday, a transport bus from a facility in Spur, Texas, located east of Lubbock in Dickens County, transported the last group, he said.

Moved from the jail were 30 women, divided between Bailey and Parmer County detention centers and 69 men were moved to Spur, Assistant County Manager Connie Harrison said.

The remaining women at the Curry County jail were moved to into pod seven in the main building, she said, temporarily emptying the annex.

An average of 100 inmates will be housed out of county for the next four weeks, Waller said, to give the sheriff’s office an opportunity to put detention officers through training programs they had been lacking.

“They will receive the basic orientation and basic detention officer courses,” he said.

Over the coming month, detention officers will be divided into two groups, one of which will attend the 80-hour course while the other group works at the facility supervising the remaining inmates.

The course will be taught by Lt. Sheila Morrison from the detention center, he said.

Inmates were selected for relocation, “based upon who had upcoming court appearances and appointments,” Waller said, explaining if inmates do have a court appointment during the month, the Texas facility will transport them back to Clovis and take another inmate back to keep the number housed in its facility consistent.

Harrison said the county pays an average of $40 to $44 per day to house inmates in the three Texas facilities, which it has existing contracts with.

Based on those figures, the cost of relocating the inmates could range from $120,000 to $132,000.

Harrison said $100,000 — earmarked for improvements at the jail — has been reallocated to supplement the county’s remaining existing budget for housing inmates out of county, which sits at about $200,000.

The money needed to be supplemented because, “that $200,000 has to cover us for the rest of the year,” she said, explaining Curry County has to pay not only the cost of housing inmates out of county — a routine occurrence — but also any medical or incidental expenses that arise.

For instance, she said the county recently got a $16,000 bill for an inmate housed in the Department of Corrections for a month.

“It can get rather expensive depending on where they’re housed,” she said.

The Feb. 21 attempted escape of four inmates prompted the resignations of then Interim Administrator Carlos Ortiz and several members of his command staff.

In the attempt, four male inmates used a metal desk to bust holes through the walls of their isolation cells and freely wandered the facility, causing thousands of dollars in damage, until a detention officer spotted them and called law enforcement.

Sheriff Matt Murray took temporary command of the facility until a new administrator is hired.

After taking command and during an investigation into the escape attempt, Murray reported his investigators discovered inconsistencies in reports Ortiz had given county officials.

Murray has reported the facility was understaffed, detention officers were working excessive hours to cover staff shortages and detention officers lacked critical training.