Commissioners funnel $500,000 in to jail funds

By Jack King

The Curry County Commission voted Tuesday to transfer $500,000 to the county’s financially burdened Adult Detention Center.
The money comes from the county’s special events center fund. But commissioners emphasized it does not come from bond money approved by voters in 2001 for the construction of a proposed events center. Instead, it comes from $500,000 transferred into the events center fund from county reserves in July 2002, County Manager Geneva Cooper said.
With $400,000 in this year’s budget, plus $100,000 moved from other categories in the Detention Center’s own budget, the transfer brings the amount of money the county has paid for housing prisoners at the detention center to $1 million, Detention Center Administrator Don Burdine said.
Burdine said he may have to ask the commission for more money before the end of the fiscal year. It cost the county $117,000 to house overflow county prisoners in Dickens County, Texas, and he has not yet received a bill for January, he said.
From Jan. 9 to Tuesday, Curry County had about 315 adult prisoners, 200 of whom were housed at the Detention Center. Officials said 93 inmates were housed in Dickens County, Texas, seven were housed in other out-of-county facilities and six were on electronically monitored house arrest. Others were on court-ordered furlough, in diagnostic detention in the state prison system or being held at the U.S. Marshal’s office.
Cooper said the detention center already is operating $119,000 in the red.
“The problem is we have all the responsibility and no way to control the (growth of) population,” Burdine said.
“What I want to know is where the heck is that tent?” Commissioner Ed Perales asked, referring to the need for some kind of alternative housing for the detention center.
“This is getting out of control and I don’t see how the five of us can solve it,” he added.
Burdine said the city of Farmington did try to use a tent — a military temporary hangar — to house overflow prisoners, but it was condemned by the state fire marshal.
Commissioner Albin Smith suggested it is time for the county to “rehash” its agreement with the city of Clovis to house city prisoners. Burdine replied that if police file charges against a prisoner in magistrate court, as opposed to municipal court, the prisoner automatically is supposed to be housed in the county jail.
“Police prefer magistrate court, because the bails are higher and the sentences longer there,” he said.
County Attorney Steven Doerr said officials currently are investigating the use of an at-home detention bracelet program for the county.
In other business, the commission appointed Smith to replace Commissioner Tim Ashley on the commission’s special events subcommittee.
“I’m excited to be on the committee, but I have a little less responsibility than they did before, because we just transferred half a million dollars out of there. I have less money to deal with,” Smith said.