Future of juvenile detention center clouded
Published: Tuesday, December 4th, 2007
Curry County could lose its juvenile detention center if it does not add more detention officers, according to jail officials. Newly hired County Manager Lance Pyle said the county did not meet staffing requirements during an annual evaluation last month by the state Children, Youth and Families Department. He said the county received a temporary permit to continue running the juvenile detention center until March 15. Curry County Detention Center Warden Leslie Johnson said CYFD would close the center if the county did not add two more officers at the jail for direct supervision of inmates. In hopes of attracting and retraining detention center officers, Curry County Commissioners voted Tuesday to increase salaries for county jail employees. Johnson said the juvenile detention center already has three vacancies to fill. Johnson said jail employees cited pay as the main reason for turnover. “The problem is I can’t attract officers for either facility,” said Johnson, who also runs the adult detention center. “The reality is nobody grows up wanting to be a jailer.” About $150,000 from the county general fund set aside two years ago would be used increase the salaries, Pyle said. The minimum salary for an entry level detention officer would increase from $18,907 to $19,859. Pyle, who was promoted from interim county manager Tuesday, said the detention center would hire temporary officers to save the county from paying benefits. She said the juvenile detention center has 12 detention officers responsible for supervising and transporting juvenile inmates. A work shift would have about three officers, she said. State inspectors were concerned there weren’t enough officers to supervise the inmates and required adding two more officers, she said. “They made the rules, and they tell us how much we’re going to spend, and we don’t have a say in the matter,” Commissioner Pete Hulder said. The county jail normally houses about 12 to 15 inmates a month, she said. The Curry County facility also houses juvenile offenders from Quay and Roosevelt counties. The nearest counties that have a juvenile detention center are Chaves and Lea, Johnson said. Housing juvenile inmates out of county would cost about $125 per day per inmate, she said. County Attorney Stephen Doerr said operating its own juvenile detention center would save the county money. Department officials could not be reached for comment.
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