Jail to get security boost

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo County Manager Lance Pyle said that replacing doors on the cells in the women’s annex at the Curry County Detention Center will increase security.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

A little more than a year after doors were removed from cells in the women’s annex at the Curry County Detention Center, they’re being put back on.

And a line on the floor that previously served as the only boundary between detention officers and inmates has been replaced by iron bars and a locked door.

County Manager Lance Pyle said the women’s unit will still operate under the concept of direct supervision, with detention officers working among inmates. Only now there will be more security, he said.

Pyle said he did not agree with the removal of doors and an unsecured control room when those changes were implemented, but he was not county manager at the time and it was not his decision.

“I voiced my opinion,” he said. “My concerns were the security issues in the facility. I’ve always had a concern with the detention center annex.”

“I strongly support direct supervision because you’re knowing what’s going on and you’re able to (deal with things quickly), but you need to be able to have doors on the cells in the event you need to do a lock-down.”

In September 2007, female inmates were moved from a pod in the jail to the annex after more than $75,000 of renovations were done, including removal of the cell doors, installation of carpeting, paint and furniture.

The annex can accommodate about 58 female inmates, according to officials.

As of Tuesday, 12 cells in the annex were still awaiting the installation of doors and door controls, according to County Maintenance Supervisor Lee Delk.

The direct supervision concept is not used in the main building, which houses about 200 male prisoners.

Pyle told county commissioners Tuesday the jail committee is looking at contracting an architect to review other changes that are being considered for the adult detention center after eight male inmates escaped Aug. 24 by cutting a hole through the roof. Four of the inmates remain at-large.

Some of the items that need to be addressed are issues with doors, intercom systems, the control board that operates doors and a need for more security doors, he said.

Delk said much of the work being done in the main building is normal maintenance, however when pods were shut down in the aftermath of the escape, the county stepped up the schedule.

Doors are one thing in need of fixing, he said, explaining inmates find ways to jam their cell doors and hinder the remote lock-down process. Dominoes and wet toilet paper are examples of creative ways inmates have devised to keep their cells from being closed.

“It’s kind of a game with the inmates. They go in cycles (and) they get very creative,” Delk said.

“They’ll try to set it up to see if the guards can catch on. It’s a crying shame they can’t apply those talents on the outside and be productive (but) they’re not in there for singing too loud in church.”

About $8,000 has been budgeted for the women’s annex and about $5,000 for work in the main jail building.

Commissioners have also approved a $165,244 contract for 55 surveillance cameras to be installed at the jail. The new system will provide higher quality, more control to monitors, greater coverage and longer footage storage times, according to Pyle.