Changes at jail
The jail administrator and chief of security are no longer working at the Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center after completing a 30-day leave while state officials investigated security breakdowns at the jail, according to Pierce County Sheriff Matt Lunde.
Both Jail Administrator Mary Richard and Chief of Security Joey Cotton had been placed on 30-day paid administrative leave following the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issuing a noncompliance order to the HACTC.
Both were placed on leave after the facility had an escape and an inmate jump out of a moving transfer vehicle over the course of two months this summer.
“Both individuals are no longer employed,” Lunde said. “I don’t want to go into some of the details. There are some legal things we’re working on. They’ve both been removed from their positions, either voluntarily or involuntarily. They are no longer county employees.”
The HACTC had had an initial 10-day period to complete a number of changes that needed to be made immediately.
The facility is still under the order for 18 months although the DOCR may lift that order earlier if it sees consistent progress.
“Things at the correctional facility are moving forward in a positive direction,” said Lunde, who is the jail administrator now that it is owned solely by the county. “The staff has a good attitude. Everyone is willing to step up and do what we need to do to get through this compliance period.”
The DOCR did pull some of its prisoners out of the facility during the compliance period and there is no one currently at the treatment portion of the HACTC, but Lunde said the jail is on the road to recovery.
“Our prisoner count, as of today was in the 90s,” he said. “We are operating where we were except not having the treatment. As of right now, we don’t have an option (but to continue operate under the order).”
Lunde said he will make a presentation to the Pierce County Commission at its October meeting regarding a reorganization of the facility.
Cass County Jail Lt. Andrew Frobig was brought in to help do an audit for a facility and provide a roadmap for returning to full compliance.
At a meeting of the HACTC advisory board last week, Frobig told the board that a number of policies within the jail weren’t being followed or revised and the DOCR had issues with some of the paperwork generated at the facility. But he said many of the issues were administrative and that the staff on duty showed some positives.
“The day-to-day operations with the inmates were good,” Frobig said.
He also said that administration and the board had to view the prison with safety as the top priority.
“If it’s always the bottom line, we’re not looking at this the right way,” he said. “The county has the opportunity to reorganize this facility to minimize the liability. Make sure the people have the support.
Lunde said it’s going to take a collective effort from himself, the county commissioners and the staff at the jail.
“As of right now, everything is looking positive for the future,” he said. “We don’t see anything negative. This facility will remain and we’ll strive to do whatever we can to make it one of the model facilities in the state. We have our work cut out for us and we’re ready. It’s going to be a collective effort.”
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