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HACTC completes first round of compliance

By Staff | Sep 13, 2013

The Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center has completed the first round of compliance orders stipulated by the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to Pierce County Sheriff Matt Lunde.

HACTC was given a Noncompliance Order by the DOCR on Aug. 23 after a pair of major security breaches over the summer.

The order spans 18 months and the facility could have been shut down if it had not met the initial requirements of the order within 10 days.

But Lunde said the facility has completed those items, which include fixing and refurbishing the fence in the recreation yard and certification of staff training.

“The jail is in compliance with the immediate actions needed to be taken,” Lunde said. “There are still some things we need to be in compliance with within an 18-month period.”

After the order was issued, Lunde went to Fargo to the Cass County Jail to consult with officers there on how to bring the jail up to code.

He said he’s received assistance from jailers and officers throughout the state.

“That’s why I went to outside resources and went out to the law enforcement community to help get better ideas and ways to improve our facility and try to make it a model facility,” he said.

Lunde said HACTC Administrator Mary Richard and Chief of Security Joey Cotton remain on a one-month paid leave while the facility completed the initial requirements.

“In their absence, I will assist the staff to get the facility up to current standards and exceed those standards,” he said. “My mission statement is first and foremost, the security and safety of the community, staff and prisoners.”

In late June, a prisoner climbed the back fence in the jail’s outdoor recreation yard and escaped. The DOCR said a number of security policies were violated that led to the escape.

On Aug. 9, a prisoner jumped out of a transport vehicle in McLean County in an apparent suicide attempt. Again, the DOCR said a security protocol was not followed allowing the prisoner to get out of the moving vehicle.

“I feel that’s been reconciled,” Lunde said of the security lapses. “Everyone’s been made aware of what needs to be changed. Everyone is working with me and we know what we need to do to get up and running.”

Lunde said the state is not currently housing prisoners at HACTC but staff has been re-trained on how to handle federal prisoners.

He also said one of the three transport vehicles have been brought up to standard and the jail is only doing local transfers until the final two vehicles are as well.

Lunde said there is a possibility of shortening the term of the Noncompliance Order if the facility continues to meet standards.

“As of last Friday, I was informed we were in compliance and the facility was not being shut down,” he said. “If we show an example of definite consistency, change and improvement and show the DOCR we’re implementing that process, we were told it might be shortened up. We’re still open for prisoners.”

Lunde said now that the jail is owned by the county, he is by law in charge of the facility.

“There was some confusion about who would run the facility because of a joint powers agreement whether the sheriff was in charge or the administrator,” he said.

Lunde feels the parts are in place to bring HACTC back to DOCR compliance.

“We do have good quality staff out there and with some leadership and guidance we can make it a much safer and more efficient facility,” he said.

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