Charter Rights
Story Archives
Sign Our Guestbook
View Guestbook
Contact Capp @   or   Post Comments  CAPP Message Board   and  Any Upcoming Events

County looks at taking back MTC jail.

June 28, 2004
By John Arnold
Journal Staff Writer
Officials Want County To Take Over Jail Operation

As "tough negotiations" with Santa Fe County's private jail contractor grind on, some county officials are revisiting the notion that the county itself should resume jail operations.

But most don't think it should happen right away.

"I'm thinking more and more about it," said County Commissioner Harry Montoya, who suggested looking at a county takeover in a year or two.

Management & Training Corp.'s contract with the county expires Sept. 30. The two sides have been trying to hammer out a new agreement.

Sheriff Greg Solano said the negotiations hit a "bad point a while back," but he added that "we're on the path of coming to an agreement with MTC."

Noting the jail's recent accreditation, Solano, like Montoya, thinks that MTC should be allowed to continue running the jail for now. But in a year or two, he, too, thinks the county should take a "serious look" at taking over operations.

And if MTC and the county can't come to an agreement this summer, Solano supports immediately taking over operations.
"I'm against going to another operator if we can't work it out," he said.

County Commissioner Paul Duran thinks the county would do a better job running the jail now.
"I have always thought that the county should take it over," Duran said.

Duran expressed similar thoughts last year when the county's Corrections Advisory Committee issued its annual report. It concluded that Utah-based MTC— a for-profit company— was not providing enough medical staffing or case managers to deal with inmates needs.

This year's report, while noting some progress, raised the same concerns.
"I think it's the profit element that is the root of all these problems," Duran said in a recent interview.

The jail's troubles have been well-documented in recent years, with state and federal audits slamming the facility for inadequate medical services and security procedures.

In an effort to avoid a federal lawsuit, the county is negotiating a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that would involve hiring more personnel.

But an immediate county takeover of jail operations would present a challenge to the financially strapped county government, which recently took over operations at the juvenile detention center.

County Commissioner Jack Sullivan wants to see how things pan out there, before committing the county to the adult jail.

"When we took over the juvenile facility, we immediately ran more than a million dollars in red ink," Sullivan said. "We took on sixty-some employees in one day."

Sullivan also wonders whether the county would have problems finding medical workers, which the current contractor says are in short supply.

"I'm not sure at this point whether the county can address the medical issues any better than a private contractor can," he said.

Solano said the pending Department of Justice settlement is among several "significant" health care changes that the county and MTC are working on.

There will also be a change in health care providers at the detention center, according to jail administrators. MTC currently subcontracts another company, Physicians Network Association, to provide health care services at the jail.

PNA will not return if and when the county and MTC reach a new agreement, jail administrators have said.

Solano said he would like to see a local health care provider— like St. Vincent Hospital or La Familia Medical Center— provide services at the jail.

But he said the jail's well-publicized problems have made it hard to convince them to participate.
"They're all reluctant to jump on board at this time," Solano said

| Post Any Upcoming Events | Top of Page | Home Page | Post Comments on Message Board |