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Curry County, NM Looking to Send Prisoners Shuttered Littlefield Jail?

Curry County, New Mexico

is looking at sending 200 incarcerated people to a currently empty jail in Littlefield, Texas, according to Littlefield City Manager Mike Arismendez  ("Littlefield City Manager Says Jail Proposal Would Save County Almost $2 million per year," October 15, 2013).  

According to the article, Curry County Commissioners are currently searching for ways to alleviate their overcrowding problem. County commissioners have not yet reached a decision regarding the proposed contract, which was suggested by Arismendez. According to Arismendez, WestCare, a private company, has agreed to contract with Littlefield to operate the facility.  It remains unclear what kind of record WestCare has in the corrections field as it doesn't appear that they currently operate any corrections facilities.  

To finalize the deal, Curry County would have to enter into a contract with Littlefield. That contract, with $42 alloted for each prisoner per day, would cost Curry County $3 million annually. The county's current budget for its adult detention facility is $5 million, according the article. The county jail's average population is between 240 to 260 people, according to Captain Keith Farkas, a command staff member at the facility.

Arismendez also claimed that Littlefield would house prisoners convicted of violent offenses, as well as those who might need to be placed in administrative segregation for any reason, including those with mental health concerns. Transportation of individuals from Curry County to Littlefield, according to him, will take place roughly twice a week.

Littlefield's Bill Clayton Detention Center, build in 2000, was originally a state prison for juveniles, but the Texas legislature decided to remove juveniles from the facility in 2003. A for-profit company operated the facility until 2009, housing adults during that time. The facility closed in 2009 after the company lost contracts in both Idaho and Wyoming.  

The Bill Clayton Detention Center's history has been troubled at best. Randal McCullough, 37, committed suicide at Bill Clayton after nearly year in solitary confimenent. Soon after, the Idaho Department of Corrections cancelled its contract with the GEO Group and removed its prisoners from Bill Clayton. Idaho's audit uncovered a routine falsifying of reports; guards claimed to be monitoring prisoners at regular intervals, but were often away from their assigned posts for hours on end. In 2011, the building was up for auction

Despite Bill Clayton's less than pristine track record, however, that the facility may be up and running again soon. As my colleague Holly Kirby wrote in September regarding the pending deal between Curry County and Littlefield

Since Littlefiend's disaster with GEO Group, the city has been stuck with an empty 372-bed jail and a $65,000 monthly bill to pay for it. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that Littlefield officials are eager to reach an agreement that would fill those beds and minimize that debt. However, a deal that would allow Curry County, New Mexico prisoners to be housed in Littlefield. TX-though it may appear to some as a "win-win"-is troubling. 

We'll keep you posted on developments from Littlefield as they come about. 

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