It’s cheaper to keep problem kids at home, say county officials who are re-establishing juvenile jail cells at the Quay County Detention Center.
And housing other county’s juveniles at $120 per day, as well, in those jail cells is expected to bring in revenue and reduce the detention center’s overall costs, said Tony Elbario, center administrator.
The center plans to open its juvenile unit by June 1, Elbario said.
The county approved converting a section of its detention center to hold juveniles late last month.
Since July 2005, when the county closed its detention center to juveniles, the city and the county have borne the costs of transporting juveniles to detention facilities in the region and housing them there, Elbario, said.
At the time, it was more cost effective to send juveniles out of the county, Elbario said.
Last year, the county spent $42,991 to house its juveniles in other facilities, Elbario said.
But, the county’s costs will rise to about $121 per day from between $85 and $95 per diem for each juvenile who is sent out of county, Elbario said.
“If we are going to spend money, we ought to do it here in Quay County,” commissioner Robert Lopez said.
Because there is rarely room for juveniles in neighboring Clovis, juveniles from Tucumcari and Quay County are transported as far as Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Gallup, Elbario said.
“The costs are only going to go up, the costs are only going to get worse,” said Quay County Manager Richard Primrose. “The detention center is not going to break even, but I think we can reduce some of the costs ... since we are looking at $4 per gallon for gas.”
The Quay County Sheriff’s Office transports juveniles from other jails to Tucumcari to appear in court while they are incarcerated. There may be two to three court appearances before a juvenile’s case is decided on, Elbario said.
In addition to rising fuel costs and per diem rates, there are manpower and vehicle maintenance costs, said Quay County Sheriff Joe Schallert.
“You almost have to budget for a car (every year) and an extra man,” Schallert said. “I’m sure in favor of opening the facility.”
So the county commission approved the opening of a single occupancy, 10-cell unit for male juveniles.
Half of those cells are projected to hold juveniles whose daily care is paid for by other counties. The projected income is $218,400, Elbario said.
The detention center’s projected budget for fiscal year, June 30, 2008-July 1, 2009, is expected to increase by about $22,890, the funds needed to hire another officer at the center for the juvenile unit, Elbario said.
Including Elbario, the center has a staff of 22.
The center’s current operating budget is $978,998, Elbario said.
The center’s budget will increase , but it will help with the county’s overall costs in savings to the Sheriff’s office, Elbario said.
There will also be a savings to the Tucumcari Police Department because as the first responder, they are responsible for a juvenile’s initial transport to another facility outside of Quay County, Elbario said.
Female juveniles will continue to be transported to other facilities. Seven female juveniles were on the books last year, and the center projects 10 will be transported and housed in other facilities this fiscal year, Elbario said.
Th cost to house female juveniles is projected to be slightly more than $12,000 including gas, Elbario said.
To open the juvenile unit, adult inmates have painted and moved out bunks for single occupancy, Elbario said.
The final step will be an inspection by the state’s Children Youth and Family Department, which has jurisdiction over juvenile facilities.
When approved, the Quay County Detention Center will accommodate 10 male juveniles and 60 adult male and female inmates, Elbario said.
The center’s daily population is currently at about 35 adult inmates.