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County/city jail takeover faces trial & error

New Mexico: Bye-bye MTC.
Andrea Egger
Staff Writer

GALLUP A county commissioner hopes the new Gallup-McKinley County Adult Detention Center will focus more on helping more inmates change their lives rather than just making money off their incarceration.

Meanwhile, upper management of the private prison company, Management Training Center, who will soon be leaving Gallup for good, expressed their thoughts on working in Gallup and gave advice to the county jail staff. Jail administration went solely to the city and county at 5 p.m. Monday.

McKinley County Commissioner Billy Moore, who is a member of the city/county Jail Authority Board, said the city and county government will make errors in the beginning in a trial- and-error system until they fully learn what they're doing. That's to be expected, Moore said.

"We're going in with a new attitude and a fresh look. We hope we can do something positive for the jail," Moore said.

Moore has no experience at running a jail, but he said he thinks the county has been missing out on the profit MTC obviously made. "They're making a profit, or they wouldn't be there," he said of the private company.

Moore doesn't believe the private prison company's money came as much from out-of-state inmates because they were only a small percentage of the jail's overall population. But he said the board might have to look into taking on out-of-state prisoners if they start losing money. He doubts that will happen.

"They have incentives to keep people in jail," Moore said of private companies like Management Training Center. "We have incentives to get them out and get them treatment. Especially in the cases of DWIs."

Keeping inmates in jail longer only takes away more taxpayers' money, the commissioner said.

Al Murphy, vice president of corrections for Management Training Corp., said he believes they are leaving the jail a better place than when they began. They improved health standards, for example, he said.

The Gallup facility proved a training ground for new corrections officers in Management Training Corp. to teach them how to be wardens, Murphy said.

He said he will miss working in Gallup. "You always learn something. I'm a lot more sad about leaving than I thought I would be," Murphy said.

The relationships he will leave behind are the hardest part. He mentioned Lt. Steve Silversmith, Lt. Johnny Greene and Officer Charlotte Begay, who works the front desk and takes phone calls.

He described Silversmith as an excellent person who does a terrific job, Murphy said.

"You see Officer Begay every day, and every day she steals a pen from you. She does it in a way that says, 'I value who you are. I wouldn't take a pen from someone who doesn't do a good job,'" he said.

From Greene, Murphy learned a world of information of inmates who become part of the jail population, and about their families.

"It's sad, because of the people," Murphy said of leaving. "This is just good people. There is a huge amount of potential."

The mixture of personalities, when joined to work as one, make a facility what it is, he said. Gallup's got it.

"This is a people industry," Murphy said of jails and prisons. "When the day is done and I go home, maybe someone's life will be better because I was in it."

He said he hopes jail staff and the city and county will succeed in their endeavors. He added with rising medical costs and health insurance skyrocketing since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, he hopes the county and city will be able to research these issues for the jail.

Of course, with the city and county running the show, the state's Risk Management handle liability issues. In Murphy's company, one person is hired on who is an expert in insurance and the person's only job is to find the best insurance.

After Murphy leaves Gallup, he's going for a round-the-world trip to prison facilities the company runs all over, like in Canada and Australia.

Former warden Ray Terry said he's going to go home to Texas and spend time with his family after he leaves Gallup. While he was just hired at Management Training Corp. to become the warden in Gallup, he hopes to continue working with the company in the future.

"I still have a passion for ministry in prison. I think I'm kind of good at it," Terry said.

He added he's an optimist who believes good things happen to good people.

For the time being, he and a skeleton crew from MTC will remain until about Dec. 12 because as the jail switched over to the county and city, some things weren't ready to be installed, like computers and the new phone system the new jail staff want.

He said he also will miss people in Gallup, not just those at the jail, but people he met in the town.

http://www.gallupindependent.com/12-03-03countycityjailtake.html


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