Detention center officers take class on inmate rights

Alisa Boswell

A training course for detention center officers, which began Wednesday morning at Eastern New Mexico University, is geared toward teaching corrections officers about inmate rights and liabilities.

“New Mexico Association of Counties insures counties and a detention center is part of that so they promote training,” said Art Murphy, an NMAC consultant and the course instructor. “That helps the counties in minimizing their liabilities against lawsuits. It helps out communities.”

Roosevelt County Detention Center Administrator David Casanova said officers from beginning status to 17 years of experience were in attendance for the class, so for some it was a refresher course.

“There are things we don’t deal with every day,” Casanova said. “That’s why training is important, to refresh what we’ve learned over the years. That goes for me too.”

The course is offered by New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and is part of the New Mexico Edge program, which focuses on public-based jobs and individuals.

The program is a joint effort between NMSU and the NMAC and was originally the idea of NMAC director Samuel Montoya in 2003.

The current directors, who have expanded the program, are Paul Gutierrez and Jon Born.

“Sam has since passed away, so he can’t see how it has developed but I know he would be proud,” said Mary DeLorenzo, director of New Mexico Edge. “These two guys are important because they see the vision Sam had but now they are carrying on his vision and making it into something even better.”

DeLorenzo said the program is unique to New Mexico and started with the purpose of bringing better opportunities to smaller detention center and jail facilities in the state.

“A majority of them were excited for the opportunity to attend the class,” Casanova said of his Roosevelt County officers. “I expect tomorrow, the information they can walk away with will be very beneficial to them.

He said NMAC offered scholarships to the four New Mexico counties (Roosevelt, Chaves, McKinley and Sandoval) who wanted to participate, so there would be no cost to the counties.

“They’re (NMAC) reaching out to all the small jails in the state to get them on the same page,” said Sgt. Clay Corn, training coordinator for adult and juvenile detention centers in Chaves County. “Who’s going to benefit most from this is both adult and juvenile officers. We will take it back and pass it on.”

He said there will be roughly 60 other officers in Chaves County who the training will be passed on to.

The course will be repeated today for officers who were unable to attend on Wednesday.

“What the program is designed to do is to enhance the professionalism of those in the detention center field, from line staff to administrators,” Murphy said. “Improving one’s skills, knowledge and abilities is an ongoing process.”