County officials decline comment on jail assessment

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A preliminary independent assessment of the Curry County Adult Detention Center is in but officials aren’t talking about what it says.

County commissioners spent more than 2 1/2 hours in a closed, executive session with consultants on Wednesday, discussing the assessment of the jail, which was prompted by an Aug. 24 escape of eight inmates.

In addition to consultants, the county manager and county attorney, Sheriff Matt Murray and Interim Assistant Jail Administrator Keith Bessette were included in the meeting.

Jail Administrator Audrey Barriga was not called to the executive session by commissioners.

Commissioners did not discuss the jail assessment during the open meeting, and officials breezed through regular business, concluding the meeting within a half hour.

Following the meeting, Commissioner Tim Ashley said matters discussed in the executive session fell under the auspices of “limited personnel matters and threatened or pending litigation.”

County Manager Lance Pyle said the jail assessment is not complete and consultants are continuing to work on it.

Pyle said he would not comment on the assessment or any preliminary findings by consultants, whose services were provided to Curry County free of charge as a benefit of membership to the New Mexico Association of Counties.

Pyle said he will make public any policies or procedures that are changed or items that require monetary commitment from the Commission.

During the open portion of the meeting, Pyle told commissioners about some changes at the jail he has initiated.

He said he has asked the city of Clovis to forgo rights to an alleyway that runs north and south between Eighth and Ninth streets.

He said it is his hope to enclose the segment of alley that runs between the back side of the jail and the women’s annex with fencing.

The matter will be placed on the city’s coming agenda for discussion, Pyle said.

Trees around the jail will soon be removed and a Xeriscaping project will take place, he said.

And four transport officers assigned to the detention center have been reassigned under command of the sheriff’s office, he said.

In her written report, Barriga said several inmates have been relocated to other counties while work is done to fix broken doors in the pods at the jail.

The door repairs are unrelated to the escape, Barriga said Wednesday afternoon.

Barriga told commissioners there are 188 inmates at the facility — 47 females and 141 males.