County manager cannot fully staff the women’s center
Eddy County’s 35-bed women’s detention facility, built in 2011, continues to remain empty and county officials attribute the reason to the county’s inability to find the right people to staff it.
The county spent $8.5 million to build a new juvenile detention facility, the women’s wing, expand the jail medical facility and remodel an area of the adult section of the facility. While it struggled to staff the juvenile facility, which is now operational, the detention center has been unable to reach its authorized full staffing level of 117 to open the new female facility.
County Manager Allen Sartin said that 15 months ago the detention center was down to 60 detention officers. He said although the detention center now has 90 officers, 27 more are needed.
“We are holding our own at the moment,” Sartin said, referring to the staffing level. “This kind of work is not for everybody. We can’t hire experienced people because there are not many people out there with that kind of experience. People think they want to get into the business, and once they start working as a detention officer, they realize that it is not their cup of tea. They realize they are not suited for that kind of work and don’t have the mindset to do it. There are no hard feelings on our part when they leave.”
Sartin said it’s not unusual for new hires to work three to six months in the detention center and leave.
While the women’s facility has yet to house female inmates, Sartin said the facility is used periodically for other purposes such as training and other special activities.
“There is no telling when we are going to get open. We are trying to push hard to get the other 27 people we need. Right now, we are focused on implementing a new computer system and our human resource department is stretched thin,” Sartin said.
He said once the computer system is in place, the county plans to explore and initiate new strategies for the recruitment of detention officers.
Meanwhile, at the adult detention center, as of Tuesday, the current female population is 59 in the 43-bed female section of the jail, according to Warden Shawn Funk.
“We have brought in portable beds,” Funk said. “At this time, I don’t have a place to send the overflow of female inmates. But I’m working to get a facility to take them.”