Commissioners decline to pursue rehabilitation program

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Following Tuesday’s meeting, officials toured the Special Events Center. Construction on the Special Events Center is about 98 percent complete with more than $31,000 left in contingency, Construction Project Supervisor Randy Kamradt said.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Curry County Commissioners agreed Tuesday not to pursue a contract with an Albuquerque rehabilitation program aimed at treating habitual drug offenders.

County Manager Lance Pyle told commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting the Second Chance Center has neglected to return a signed contract to the county since the commission approved it in June, but has billed the county for inmate care totaling more than $4,500.

The bills include student program fees at a rate of $37.50 a day and charges for drug screenings, over-the counter medications, vitamins and some prescription medications.

And despite requests, the center is not sending progress reports on the inmates in their care, Pyle said.

Pyle suggested the county not contract with the center and use the funds that would have gone to the program to aid in staffing and improvements at the detention center.

County Attorney Stephen Doerr told commissioners if they choose to enter into an agreement with Second Chance in the future, they will likely need to solicit a bid and start the process over again.

“We’ve been operating for three months without a contract so there’s been a breach,” he said.

Commissioners voted to pay the bills received from Second Chance and follow Pyle’s suggestion to redirect the money that had been budgeted back into jail improvements.

“I’m OK with the program but it needs to be fine tuned,” Chairman Albin Smith said. “I would like to keep (the idea) open, if they fix some of the issues.”

His concerns were echoed by commissioners, who said they support efforts to curb recidivism but believe the efforts and the results need to be measurable and have accountability.

Sheriff Matt Murray told commissioners 13 Curry County inmates have gone to the program and only three graduated, two of whom have returned to jail since.

Second Chance bases its communications drills on the research of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, according to the program’s Web site.

The national alternative sentencing treatment program has recently come under fire for accusations of inflated success rates.

In July, Albuquerque television station KRQE released an investigative report downgrading Second Chance’s self-stated success rating from 90 percent to about 32 percent and identified six program instructors touted as program successes who had been rearrested.

Second Chance officials said the TV station’s report was inaccurate and declined to comment further citing patient confidentiality.

Judges have sent more than 90 convicts to the facility since it opened in September 2006 and the federal government and the state have allocated $1.57 million to Second Chance, KRQE reported.

A message left Tuesday with Second Chance staff in Albuquerque seeking comment was not returned.

Meetings watch

This is a supplemental report on Tuesday’s meeting:

• Construction on the Special Events Center is about 98 percent completed with more than $31,000 left in contingency, Construction Project Supervisor Randy Kamradt said.

A final “punch list” to check details and finish work is expected to be finished by Nov. 15, he said.

Commissioners approved a design of a canopy to provide shelter over outdoor ticket windows, a plaque for the building, redesigned urinal screens and the installation of four concrete headwalls for shield storm drains.

• The commission approved a proposal to add five additional officers at the detention center with a budget of $212,000 and to create an investigator/classification specialist position with a maximum salary of $50,213.

• Sheriff Matt Murray reported his department is preparing to launch a bully education program in Grady, Texico and Melrose schools beginning next week.

• The treasurer’s office will begin mailing out tax bills Oct. 31, Deputy Treasurer Bernice Baker said. Taxes are due Nov. 10, she said.

• Visiting hours at the jail are now held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Interim Detention Administrator Audrey Barriga said. A kiosk has been provided in the jail’s lobby for family members to put money in inmate accounts or they can use the Internet to make deposits, she said.

She said there are 283 inmates in the custody of the county, she said, with about 100 of them housed in other counties while improvements are made.