Meeting set June 25 to discuss detention center future

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MINERAL COUNTY officials will meet with the CEO of CCCS, a private prison organization, on Tuesday, June 25 to discuss his detention center proposal. (File photo)

After the Mineral County Detention Center closed six months ago due to a staff shortage, county commissioners will meet again with the CEO of a private prison organization to potentially form a deal and reopen the facility.

Commissioners will meet with Mike Thatcher, the Community, Counseling and Correctional Services, Incorporated (CCCS) CEO, at a public meeting on Tuesday, June 25 at 5 p.m. to hear his proposal and discuss the jail reopening.

“They’re still very interested,” Mineral County Attorney Ellen Donohue said. Donohue has been in contact with Thatcher since he came to tour the jail last month, where he discussed leasing the facility.

One idea was for Thatcher to reserve 16 beds while the remaining ten beds would be reserved for Mineral County inmates. For example, Thatcher’s reserved beds could be used for overflow probationary inmates from Lake County while the county’s reserved beds would be used for criminals arrested in Mineral County.

Donohue hopes the county could break even financially with Thatcher’s help. “What I’m hoping is it would be a wash,” Donohue said. “That we’re gonna lease you the building and you take care of our ten people.”

THATCHER ALSO discussed having a treatment center in the county down the road as an additional facility to help the program, and to add and maintain jobs.

“It’s a longer-term treatment concept,” Thatcher said at a meeting on May 28. “That’s something you should parallel to the discussion.”

Thatcher says treatment facilities are a niche operation, and the county has potential to have separate programing.

Thatcher started his nonprofit organization in 1983, and currently runs 13 facilities in Montana, Washington and North Dakota. Facilities in Butte include the Butte Pre-release Center, Incorporated and several other treatment programs and correctional facilities. CCCS employees grew from 13 to 559 full and part-time employees, according to the CCCS website.

MINERAL COUNTY resident Diane Magone also suggested creating a Temporary Contractual Agreement for Coordinating Position. The county would hire a temporary person on a 3 to 6-month contract who will be responsible for “exploring the options available to reopen the county detention center in a timely manner and performing all duties that would accomplish this goal,” according to the proposal.

The coordinator would create foundational procedures to recruit and retain employees and potentially work in tandem with CCCS to reopen the jail. “I kind of like the idea of that because it’s hard to kind of coordinate this when everyone already has other fulltime jobs,” Donohue said at a public meeting in early June.

IDEAS TO reopen the jail are a response to its closure in January, when the 28-bed jail closed following a detention officer shortage. The jail needs a minimum of five officers to run the facility and the county didn’t receive enough applicants to begin the hiring process.

Deputies currently transport inmates to the Sanders County Jail in Thompson Falls and the Missoula County Jail, leaving fewer deputies to patrol. Mineral County must pay $69.50 to Sanders County and $108.00 per day to Missoula County facilities to house an inmate.

But in the meantime, county officials will wait to hear Thatcher’s proposal and other suggestions before making a decision and they encourage the public to attend the next meeting.

“It would be a great opportunity for people to meet with him and talk to him,” Donohue said.

County officials will meet with Thatcher on Tuesday, June 25 at 5 p.m. in the County Commissioners office.

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