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New Mexico: MTC might lose contract.

Official Suggests Reclaiming Privately Run Jail
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
By Gary E. Salazar Journal Staff Writer

Mounting problems at the Santa Fe County jail, including the dismissal this week of its top two officers, prompted County Commissioner Paul Duran to suggest re-examining the jail operating contract Tuesday.

Management & Training Corp., the private Utah-based jail contractor, placed Warden Cody Graham and Maj. Greg Lee on paid administrative leave Monday based on county concerns about the treatment of female inmates. County Attorney Steve Kopelman wrote MTC Feb. 17 of female inmates' complaints they were denied adequate medical attention, clothing and items of hygiene.

County correctional service manager Gregory Parrish called Graham's and Lee's removal "a positive move by MTC in addressing the issues we are concerned about."

Nonetheless, the commission Tuesday heard more bad news about the detention center, which lead Duran to suggest the county itself resume the jail operation. The three-year contract with MTC expires Sept. 30, 2004.

"Even if we break even, it's worthwhile," he said.

The County Commission moved $740,000 out of a $3 million general-fund surplus Tuesday to cover jail cost overruns and also received the annual Correction Advisory Committee report.

"The report is frightening," Commissioner Harry Montoya said.

The seven-member advisory committee reported MTC is not providing enough case managers to deal with inmates and needs to improve inmate visitation and medical staffing. The committee is also troubled by correctional staff turnover.

"The evidence is building that the county should take over the facility," said committee member Mitch Buszek.

MTC spokesman Carl Stuart said Graham and Lee will not be returning to Santa Fe but could land jobs at other company facilities.

In February, Kopelman wrote MTC that female inmates in January had complained they were not given adequate personal hygiene items, toilet paper, clothing or medical attention. The women also indicated they were given one set of detention uniforms but not the required two sets of underclothing and socks, the letter states.

The women complained to their case managers but nothing was done and they were threatened with lockdown for complaining, the letter states.

MTC sent two high-ranking officials from its Centerville, Utah, corporate office Al Murphy, vice president of correction operations, and Jay Bodman, correction operations manager to operate the 672-bed jail on N.M. 14 south of Santa Fe while replacements are sought, Stuart said.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, the county budgeted $4.7 million for jail operations, based on an average county inmate population of 330 per day at $40 per inmate. But the inmate population has averaged about 365 per day, resulting in $640,000 in additional costs, said county finance director Katherine Miller.

The county also has lost about $100,000 in revenue because other agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, failed to send enough inmates to keep the jail full, Miller said.

The turnover issue cited in the advisory committee report troubles county officials most; it calls into question the amount of training the corrections officers have.

"We don't want to have employees who are interested in making a living for a short amount of time," Duran said.

At a county-run facility, corrections officers would receive county wages and benefits and would have opportunities to move to other county departments, including the Sheriff's Department, Duran said.

Sheriff Greg Solano said he needs time to study whether the county should take over the jail. But he's encouraged by the changes MTC has made, he said.

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