The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Juvenile detention center may close


January 29, 2020

Mathew Brock

The Curry County Juvenile Detention Center is connected to the courthouse and adjacent to the Adult Detention Center.

CLOVIS - Curry County may decide to close the doors of its juvenile detention center this year, which would leave only five JDTs in the state, the closest then located in Lea County.

Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said it may be in Curry County's best interest to close its JDC, which in many ways has become the regional JDC for eastern New Mexico, taking juvenile offenders from Roosevelt, Quay, Eddy, Chavez and De Baca counties as well as Curry.

"There are six counties that have juvenile detention centers open and they carry the burden for the entire state," Pyle said. "We're looking at the options. We have to consider our declining bookings, the operational costs and the fact that it's the largest liability for the county."

The number of detainees from Curry County has been shrinking over the years, with only four local detainees in house as of Tuesday.

The county pays over $800,000 to run the facility, much of which could be reallocated if the facility is closed. The county would still need to pay housing fees for whatever other facility it would end up sending detainees to, as well as transportation fees, but Pyle says that would be at a much lower cost.

The facility requires 15 full-time employees to maintain, with at least three officers on duty at all times. If the facility closes, those positions would be absorbed into different facilities in the county, such as the adult detention center.

Other counties that use the facilities pay Curry County $200 per day per detainee, but Pyle said that doesn't go far in covering the JDC’s expenses.

Curry County's JDC is also the smallest in the state, with only 16 beds for boys and four for girls compared to the next largest facility in Dona Ana county that has 30 beds for boys and 10 for girls.

If the Curry facility closes, Pyle said he would expect the county to negotiate a deal with Lea County's facility.

Closing the facility down wouldn't be the only option however. Pyle said renegotiating with other counties so that they pay more and help share the burden is also an option.

Curry County Detention Center Administrator Mark Gallegos said he and his staff are doing research on the potential impact and other possible options the county could consider.

More and more JDCs across the state have closed over the last decade, with parties at the state level beginning to worry that the state may soon have none at all if the trend continues.

As part of this year's state legislative session, representatives addressed the issue during a House judiciary meeting on Monday.

One of the main contributors to the closures was that the rate of juvenile incarceration has gone down drastically over the last 10 years, according to a report presented by New Mexico Counties. In 2010, there were 4,056 juvenile detainees in the state, compared to the 1,597 detained in 2019.

The next biggest issue mentioned was the cost of such facilities and how it falls mostly on the shoulders of the counties that host them.

According to New Mexico Counties' report, it costs $18.5 million to run the JDCs, $16.5 million of which falls completely on the shoulders of the six counties running them.

Alongside Curry, Dona Ana and Santa Fe counties are considering closing their facilities as well, possibly taking the total in the state down to three, which would be located in San Juan, Sandoval and Lea counties.

For now the House and Senate have introduced memorials to conduct fiscal and logistic studies to measure the effect the closures could be having on the state and see what might be done to have all the counties share the burden.

Pyle said a presentation on JDCs in the state will be presented to the Curry County Commission during one of its February meetings, with the commission coming to a decision later this year.


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