Perhaps you’re familiar with a groundbreaking ceremony, but a wall-breaking ceremony?
“It’s when we officially start the demolition of the old jail.” Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley says he’ll get to finish what Sheriff John Eberly started long before him, a new detention center.
It’s been a long time coming to see this project come to fruition. Sheriff Mobley explains that it started in the late 90s with Eberly and former Sheriff Chris Johnson continuing it. Mobley will get to see it happen on Monday, December 4th and he will be given a large hammer to take the first swing at taking down a building that no longer works as a jail.
“The condition of the old jail, we were up against the ACLU on almost a weekly basis, wondering what kind of progress we were making to get up to standards where we aren’t looking at 8th amendment violations which is cruel and unusual punishment.”
Sheriff Mobley says the new facility will not be a fancy one but will be one where they will be able to send inmates back into the community with some skills or some treatment. He recounts something that he states he’s been saying that the American Sheriff is the number one provider of mental health services in the country. “We have to find a way to address that as well.”
Sheriff Mobley says his staff also needs to be able to work in a safe place.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve had infestations of various types of insects and so forth down there, we’ve closed the jail a couple of times to kinda disinfect it. Everything beneath that building is just a mess and it has been for decades and continues to be so to put Band-Aids on this, there’s only so much you can do so it’s time to start over.”
The new detention center will be at the same location on 2nd Street in La Junta.
Sheriff Mobley proudly says the county was able to do this without raising taxes. The courthouse was used as collateral for a loan to build the new detention center and offices. They will pay back the loan with the money saved from not having to house inmates in other counties. Right now, Otero County pays the Bent County jail to take their inmates at a cost determined between the two agencies. Washington and Las Animas County are also used to hold inmates while the new jail is being built.
The Otero County Sheriff’s Office is temporarily headquartered at a storage facility for the county’s health department on Dalton Avenue in La Junta.
The new facility is expected to be finished in about 15 months. The current jail will hold 33 inmates, but the new jail will be able to host 60 beds. Sheriff Mobley furthers he understands they could have more than 60 in the future and is working with the Chief Judge and Sheriff Jake Six of Bent County to create a pre-trial services program for lower-risk inmates that might not need to be incarcerated.
He says they’re trying to do things like this that are innovative because what has always worked in the past is no longer working.
“It’s time to be creative and think outside the box a little bit,” Mobley says other counties have already tried this with success.
The Wall Breaking ceremony will be on Monday, December 4th at 1 pm at 222 East 2nd St, in La Junta.