Juvenile detention center to expand capacity

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Curry County Juvenile Detention Center has increase its capacity by adding Dayroom East, which can hold six additional juveniles.

For the first time since capacity was slashed by the state almost two years ago, the Curry County Juvenile Detention Center will be able to house more inmates.

County Manager Lance Pyle said the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department has agreed to allow the facility to raise population from10 to 16 after reducing the facility’s capacity in 2007.

Pyle said the decision — referred to as a “variance” or waiver — came after the county met with CYFD leadership and shared concerns about the financial impact on the county and frustrations for law enforcement.

“It’s an extra burden on law enforcement and something had to be done,” Pyle said.

Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said the change is welcome.

“It’s going to give us an opportunity to hopefully jail a few of these young men and women that cause us heartache that are normally just booked and released,” he said.

Law enforcement has complained about the shortage of space since the state ordered the cut back. Police say it is frustrating to arrest youths only to be told they can’t be held because there is no room in Curry County.

The alternative is housing youths at other facilities in the state.

Pyle said the number of youths brought in for booking has increased, particularly in the last year.

“We’ve seen an increase, and at one point in August, we had five (inmates housed) in Quay County at $125 a day,” he said.

Pyle said the county has exceeded its $2,000 a year budget for housing juvenile inmates outside the county by $10,000 since the state dropped the facility’s population capacity.

The facility also lost revenue it was receiving for housing juveniles from other areas. At the same time, expenses were growing.

“Something had to be done,” Pyle said.

“It is going to continue to cost, but it’s assisting law enforcement, and it’s assisting us, and it is living within our budget. It’s not a perfect system, but it is assisting.”

Under the new arrangement, the county had to hire two additional detention officers and provide direct supervision of inmates.

The new hires bring the facility staff to 15, including the administrator.

Under a direct supervision system, detention officers work among inmates instead of watching them from a separate guard or security station.

During times of low occupancy, Curry County can now encourage other communities to send their overflow inmates to the facility and perhaps begin generating revenue again, Pyle said.