Jails opening soon in Tuba City, Crownpoint

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, December 13, 2012

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(Special to the Times – Donovan Quintero)

The Tuba City Detention Center begins to take shape in Tuba City. The new detention center will house 132 inmates from all over the reservation and will have a grand opening on February 15.

T he Navajo Nation is just three months away from having something it hasn't had in more than five decades - a decent jail system.

Work is on schedule currently to open two new jails, one in Tuba City, Ariz. and another in Crownpoint, N.M.

"This is very exciting," said Delores Greyeyes, director of corrections for the division.

It's been her burden to maintain the tribe's existing jails, all of which have had problems and had to have major renovations at various times during the past decade.

But renovations could only go so far and as the tribe battled problems with overcrowding and a court order edict to keep jail populations at a certain level, efforts to get funding for new jails just didn't seem to go anywhere.

But that changed with the recent downturn in the national economy and the decision by the new president Barack Obama to spend more than $800 billion on stimulus projects to get people back to work.

As a result the tribe received $67 million to build a 132-bed facility at Tuba City. The Bureau of Indian Affairs kicked in some money that is allowing the building a smaller jail in Crownpoint for $48 million.

For a reservation that has seen unemployment rates hang around the 50 percent mark now for more than two decades, the opening of the jails means a lot of new jobs.

Greyeyes is now working with the tribe's office of workforce development to fill those positions, but said Tuesday, that it has been hard to find enough Navajo applicants who have the prerequisite one-year experience as a security.

As a result, she said, some of the people who have been accepted will have to go through extra training provided by the tribe to meet that requirement.

It has helped that the tribe has agreed to up the beginning salary for corrections personnel with the starting pay in the $30,000 range.

"With benefits, you are looking at about $38,000 a year," she said.

What this means, she said, is that while there will be enough approved applicants to open up the facility in Crownpoint this February, the Tuba City facility will have to be opened in phases over the next two years as the personnel is hired and trained.

"Crownpoint has 48 beds and two drunk tanks that can hold 20 persons," she said. "That's manageable."

The grand opening for the Tuba City is now scheduled for Feb. 15 and the one for Crownpoint on March 8.

She expects, barring any minor construction problem or any delays in getting a certificate of occupant by the BIA, that the facilities will be completed by then.

"We don't want to have any construction going on after we open the facilities," she said.

Since the BIA is paying for the construction of the Crownpoint facility, the tribe is looking at the BIA to pay for the cost of maintaining the facility.

There's a question right now, however, about who will pay for maintaining the Tuba City facility and Greyeyes said the tribe is hoping that since it is being built by stimulus money, the BIA will provide the funding for that as well but that's not a sure thing at this time.

If that doesn't happen, Greyeyes said her office will have to find some "creative ways" to come up with those funds.

"I know my staff is very excited about moving into the new facilities," she said, adding that once the new facilities are up and running, the old facilities in those communities will be shut down.

"Morale in our staff will also be up," she said.

While recent efforts have provided enough personnel for the opening of the jails, Greyeyes said her department is still encouraging people to apply.

"We always need more applicants," she said, adding that people can apply to the tribe's personnel department if they want to work for the corrections department.

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