Cutting cost of detention

By Ryn Gargulinski

With annual bills totaling about $300,000 to run the Quay County Juvenile Detention Center, county and detention center officials agreed the underage inmates are costing the county way too much money.

And so county commissioners on Monday decided to send juvenile inmates to a facility in Curry County and, as a backup, to Canadian, Texas.

The changes begin on Nov. 1.

An August commission meeting included Bruce Swingle of the New Mexico County Insurance Authority who came armed with ideas on how to cut costs for the entire detention facility, which was running up a tab of nearly $700,000 per year. Getting rid of the juvenile facility was one of the ideas.

Monday’s guests included Richard Ferguson, district supervisor of juvenile probation, who gave a report and brief history of what is happening to the juvenile system.

“No one goes to detention anymore,” Ferguson said, adding new rules with stricter guidelines were recently set down to determine what juveniles should go into custody. He said a pilot program started in Albuquerque and New Mexico counties essentially had to call Albuquerque with the rundown on their juvenile offenders to see if it met the criteria for incarceration.

Those who follow the guidelines set by the program, Ferguson said, receive funds from the Anne E. Casey Foundation to assist with expenses.

“It would be suicide to do away with it,” Ferguson said of not following the guidelines and thus cutting off funding from the foundation.

Detention Center Assistant Administrator T.J. Rich said the juvenile population in the facility has dropped since the new rules went into effect, even with the Quay County facility housing juvenile inmates from surrounding communities. Rich said cost per each juvenile inmate runs $110 per day, whereas Curry County would charge Quay about $85 per day.

The stringent regulations regarding housing for the juveniles is also a factor, Rich said, as they are required to have less people in a cell, more square footage and other medical and personal liability regulations.

The area that currently houses the juveniles would be converted into areas for the adult population, most likely the women’s pod and holding cells for inmates needing special medical or personal attention, Rich said.

“This frees us up a lot,” Rich said, adding they will gain about 30 to 40 beds with the move.

Although the staff would be reduced by one worker per shift, no layoffs would be necessary, Rich said, as the detention center has been in a hiring freeze and has not replaced workers who left. He said 10 workers are slotted for employment with the center and four positions are currently open.

The remaining staff has the option of being transferred to the adult division, Rich said. In addition to the removal of the tedious liability regulations, Rich said the removal of the juvenile portion of the detention center should save the county $200,000 per year.