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Jail to implement new training, tactics following alcohol-fueled riot

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Administrator Tom Havel of the San Juan County Adult Detention Center said he will introduce new policies, training and tactics at the facility in response to the Dec. 28 riot.

Havel said that new policies will make it more difficult for inmates to conceal prescription medication and jailhouse liquor, or "hooch."

He said there will be more patrols within the jail pods, and guards will receive more training.

Next week, jail officials will meet with local law enforcement officials to develop an action plan so that guards and police are better prepared to respond to future incidents at the jail, Havel said.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said the county's finances are tight, but he is considering the purchase of a body scanner that would allow for nonintrusive searches at the facility.

He said that staffing at the jail is also being evaluated to determine whether a new security task force is required to monitor contraband at the facility.

"The biggest thing is really looking at working with the law enforcement to collaborate a little bit more to get their presence in the facility on a regular basis, whether through training or shakedowns," Carpenter said.

The changes come after an investigation by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office revealed that the more than 30 inmates involved in the Dec. 28 riot at the jail were drinking jailhouse liquor on the night of the incident.

Both Carpenter and Havel dispute the characterization of the incident as a riot.

Several more inmates are suspected of snorting a prescription medication used to treat depression shortly before the riot occurred.

One jail guard suffered a fractured eye socket in the fracas, and several other guards and inmates suffered minor injuries. Four inmates face felony charges in connection to the incident.

Havel said his staff has almost finished an internal review of the incident. The findings will be made publicly available in a report once the review is complete, he said.

He said his staff has briefed him on its findings, and he is taking corrective action as a result. However, nothing in the report was shocking, he said.

"I haven't seen anything in there that suggested a total breakdown or anything," he said. "Things happen, and policies need to be reviewed, but we have a lot of good people that work their tails off, and they do it with pride and dignity."

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.