Jail administrator says he’s saved by bringing inmates back in county

Robin Fornoff

New jail Administrator Gerry Billy said Tuesday he’s already achieved “substantial savings” for the county by reducing the number of inmates being housed outside the county.

Billy’s announcement was part of his first report to commissioners since assuming leadership at the jail three weeks ago.

Billy said bringing inmates back to the Curry County jail has resulted in a 7 percent population increase. As of Tuesday, there were 202 inmates in the jail.

However, Billy said, that means there are seven Curry County inmates being housed out of county compared to 54 a year ago.

Billy said he couldn’t specify exact dollars saved.

The county spends more than $400,000 each year to house prisoners in other facilities.

Billy said many of the inmates being house in jails such as Bailey and Parmer counties in Texas are there because the Curry jail isn’t equipped to handle them.

“We are trying to bring people back as quickly as possible,” Billy said.

Billy said he is also working to reduce the Curry County jail population by instituting changes. Among those changes are appointing one person to review inmate records and make recommendations for reducing a sentences based on good behavior.

Billy also said he is also developing plans to integrate additional programs for inmates that would help them learn skills to help keep them from being repeat offenders.

Commissioner Dan Stoddard said he was impressed with Billy’s work and Commissioner Caleb Chandler said he is looking forward to even more administrative changes at the jail in the coming months.

Commissioners also approved Chairman Wendell Bostwick’s suggestion that he and another commissioner meet regularly and informally with Billy, who by contract answers to commissioners and not County Manager Lance Pyle as all other county employees do.

Chandler said he agreed such meetings were necessary so long as it was understood no actions could be taken or approved at such meetings. Such decisions, Chandler said, must be brought before the full five-member board during public meetings.

Other changes at the jail under Billy:

• A housing unit for inmate workers has been repainted and renovated, including new ceiling tiles and improvements in showers.

• There are plans to renovate two other housing units for inmates.

• New uniforms and badges for jail personnel will be ordered that reflect what Billy termed a more professional attitude.

• A continuous and sustained training program for all staff begins March 18. Billy said staff training has been haphazard at best.

• A policy change that will designate sergeants shift supervisors, a position previously given only to lieutenants and captains. Billy said distributing more responsibility to staff encourages them to contribute more ideas and gain a greater sense of ownership.