County needs to get out of jail business

CNJ staff

Are you kidding? Again? Unbelievable. That sentiment was expressed repeatedly Sunday as area residents learned that yet another violent inmate had escaped custody of the Curry County Adult Detention Center.

This continued incompetency — 14 inmates have escaped custody in nine years, by our count — leads us to only one conclusion: It is time this county got out of the jail business.

Way past time.

Each incident shows this administration cannot find, hire or retain competent jail leaders and staff. And their ineptitude endangers all citizens.

There was no dramatic jailbreak early Sunday morning. No need for one. The escapee simply ran out an unlocked door when his guard became “distracted” while inmates were stripping wax off the floors.

One News Journal reader asked: “Can you call it an escape when he just walks out the door?”

Narcizo Soto Jr., 35, was being held without bond after having eluded police capture for three months following a shooting incident that involved an 8-year-old child.

How did jail officials determine he should be allowed out of his cell at all?

An officer monitoring surveillance cameras saw Soto run away and reportedly notified Clovis police of the escape within seconds. But it was too late to recapture Soto then. He remained free more than 18 hours before law officers found him in the attic of a home several blocks away.

Who’s to blame for the latest county jail oops?

Interim jail administrator Tori Sandoval announced Sunday that undisclosed disclipinary action would be taken against “more than one” detention officer.

County Commission Chairman Caleb Chandler spoke for us all when he wondered “when we’re going to see some degree of competency at the jail.”

Chandler expects answers from County Manager Lance Pyle and his administration staff. As do we all.

But don’t think county commissioners are blameless in this travesty. They’re often referred to as “micro-managers” or “hands-on,” depending on individual perspective. They have been actively involved in jail matters for years, especially since 2008 when eight violent inmates poked a hole in the jail’s roof and got away.

We think area residents are fed up with the finger-pointing blame game between jail officers and elected and appointed officials. What taxpayers want is no more irresponsible management.

Privatizing this operation is an action we once again advocate. It is the most obvious way to remove county officials from day-to-day management of the jail.

Another option is to farm all the county prisoners to regional jails. At least they do not have Curry County’s ridiculous history of repeated prisoner escapes.

Then there is option three: Get rid of everyone responsible, which means just about everyone from jail supervisors to county administration to county commissioners.

All three options could prove expensive in the short term. But community safety is more valuable.

It’s time to make major changes at CCADC and rid the county of incompetent officials running the jail, from the county leadership offices or in the jail itself.