Moving inmates on the cheap
Sheriff's sergeant adept at transporting prisoners
Jail staff at the Moffat County Public Safety Center have a nickname for Sgt. Ken Uecker suggestive of the character of Walter “Radar” O’Reilly from the 1970s sitcom “M*A*S*H.”
On the show, the character played by Gary Burghoff has an uncanny way of getting supplies and transportation for American medical troops serving in war-torn Korea.
Uecker, dubbed by co-workers as “Radar O’Uecker,” works a little like that. He seamlessly communicates with jail officials across the country, finding ways to transport inmates that save Moffat County thousands of dollars a year, jail administrator Lt. Dean Herndon said.
“He can spend 15 minutes on the phone and save us $1,500,” he said. “He can get people here for the least amount of money.”
A statewide inmate transportation system called Transports Across Colorado was put in motion about seven years ago. It helps jurisdictions from overlapping when having to transport prisoners across the state. Another multi-state transportation system, used largely in Western states, also is in place to move. Before the agreements, Moffat County would have to retrieve or deliver inmates thousands of miles if people were picked up for local warrants in other jurisdictions.
Both efforts though, are only as effective as the communication it takes to make it work, jail officials said.
As an example, Herndon said, a person wanted on a warrant out of Moffat County was recently picked up by law enforcement officials in Texas.
Instead of sending Moffat County jail staffers on the days-long journey to retrieve the inmate, Uecker coordinated the transport with Grand Junction authorities who were heading south to pick up a person wanted in Grand Junction.
Uecker coordinated a pick-up for that inmate in Meeker, seriously decreasing travel time and expenses.
“Usually, as far as I ever have to go to pick up someone is Garfield County or Mesa County,” Uecker said. “Before, it could take up to a 2,000-mile trip. When we got a call, we just had to jump in a vehicle and go get people. It cost everybody a lot of money in transports and labor.”
In 2003, Moffat County jail staffers transported 80 inmates a total of 3,000 miles with a savings of more than $16,000.
That’s an important step for the Public Safety Center that is on track toward getting revenues back in the black, Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said.
“Now were having inmates transported for us,” he said. “That’s money that we don’t have to spend.”
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