Friday, January 31, 2014

Drug Busts Keep Our Prisons Safe

You may wonder, "Who would try and bring drugs into a prison?" Sounds dumb right? We think so too. But weekly someone tries to pull a fast one on our officers at one of our 11 facilities.

A visitor is led out in handcuffs after trying to smuggle in drugs.

We are constantly working to stay one step ahead, and do a great job! We also work with our partners in law enforcement to criminally charge smugglers and drug dealers back out in our communities who supplied the contraband.


Check out some of the stuff officers have seized recently!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Offender Hobby Craft

Did you know that many inmates in our prisons are great artist? Now you have a chance to buy some of their work. (If you would like to know about the program please see our January 23rd post about the Old Main Revitalization Project).

Sales of inmate art will start in May at the Old Main. A portion of the proceeds will go to the offender's children (if they have any), victim's organizations, and back into other programs for inmates. This income can help take the burden of taxpayers to pay for inmate programming.

NMCD Deputy Secretary Joe Booker speaks to an Angola Inmate in the Hobby Craft Shop.

Take Ray Buck, a painter,  who while serving time has worked at our facilities painting amazing scenes with just a ruler, some tape, paint, a brush and his imagination. Take a look at some of Ray's recent work.

 Inmates like Ray will be able to make their art and sell it to the public. This will establish them as a known artist and help them start their own business when they leave here. The business plan they will need to be part of the program will help put them on a fast track to beginning their own business when they leave prison.

We are excited to announce a Hobby Craft Fair in October that will feature art and specialty pieces by offenders from all over the state. Interested getting tickets for the fair? We will be posting more information this spring on our website:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life in Prison Today

Have you ever wondered if what you see in the movies or on TV about prison is true? You may be surprised by what life is really like in a New Mexico prison. We made it easy for you to have a behind the scenes look -- take a look! (This video is shown during our Old Main Tours, so that's why the Secretary is thanking visitors for coming to the facility. Want to know more about Old Main? Look at our blog from last Thursday.)

Click here!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Supervision Success Stories

Our Supervision Success stories continue today! Alayna Williams was using drugs and working as a prostitute when she was arrested, today she has a full time job and is in college. She credits her probation officer for helping her turn her life around.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Programming, New Opportunities

Did you know the average New Mexico inmate has less than a high school education?  Many do not have a skill or trade. As part of our commitment to public safety, we work to return offenders back to our communities better than they came to us. We are expanding this commitment by expanding our offender programming. Here is a look at just some of the new programming:


*Offender Hobby Craft - offenders will now be allowed to make art, wood projects, or other goods to sale to the public. A portion of the proceeds will go to the offender's children (if they have any), victim's organizations, and back into other programs for inmates. This income can help take the burden of taxpayers to pay for inmate programming. (To learn more about this, please see our blog from January 23rd on the Old Main Revitalization.)


*Bakery at Springer -- NMCD is standing back up a full culinary kitchen at our Springer Facility. This program will teach cooking and baking skills to offenders and train them to get jobs as chefs when they leave prison.


*Cowboy Up! - This program is also at Springer and will pair former veterans with abused and abandoned horses seized by the livestock board. These horses will be nursed back to health by the offenders. At the same time the offenders will be receiving treatment and programming using the horses.


*Greenhouses - offenders at our Central New Mexico Correctional Facility will soon be growing fresh vegetables that will be used for food service at the prison. This program will also give inmates horticulture and agriculture skills. (They are going up! See pick below)


*Landscaping program - inmates are already xeriscaping prisons as part of a program to teach them landscaping skills. This program also helps facilities to save water and be better neighbors by removing grass and replacing it with stone.


*Sustainability in Prisons Project – turning trash into treasure! Okay, not really. But we are working to repurpose, reuse and rejuvenate items that once would have been tossed into the garbage. (More on this in an upcoming blog! Stay tuned!)


These are just some of the exciting new programs happening at NMCD!

Friday, January 24, 2014

From Stocks to Purpose Driven Programming

Did you know that historically speaking, it was the Quakers who led us away from the use of "stocks" (the medieval locking wooden devices we've seen on famous financial commercials depicting criminals’ heads and hands protruding from) to monastic cells designed to promote introspection and redirect the purpose of a criminal's life?  These were the original origins of our prison systems.


The New Mexico Corrections Department recognizes that its prisons must be places where accountability for one's choices remain center stage.  But in keeping with the original origins of our prisons, the department also remains aware that a majority of those sentenced to prison have the capacity to be accountable and grow from their circumstances.  This is why, along with the conventional delivery of education and work skills, the department has re-oriented itself to a more comprehensive and meaningful correctional focus of its work.

Truly transferable education, life, and work skills are now grounded in activities designed to expand and mature an offender's mental and moral development.  Programs designed to create an empathetic, bonding linkage with our community are no longer a luxury for New Mexico's prisons but a staple component of its professional correctional strategy. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Old Main Revitalization

Old Main Revitalization Project

"Remembering our past to create a better future."

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci wasn't just an artist, he was a visionary. It can be difficult to see someone else's vision and even harder to stand with them to accomplish it. So let's be clear from the beginning, if you never want to rock the boat, always order vanilla, and spend most days trying not to have an opinion on anything, this vision is not for you. But, if you are a fighter, passionate about what you believe in, a visionary, then you will want to keep reading.

What's led us to our vision, started out as a nightmare. "Old Main" is prison whose violent past echoes in its now cold and empty halls. But we have an opportunity to change that prison's purpose, to take it from just being the site of tragedy, to a place of opportunity.

On February 2, 1980, inmates frustrated with overcrowding, lack of job skill and educational programming and poor treatment by officers, took control of the Penitentiary of New Mexico. It started small, with offenders overpowering 4 officers. Within 22 minutes they had control of the whole prison. Inmates, armed power tools obtained from a cellblock under construction, used them on other inmates to torture and maim; eventually murdering 33. At the same time, they also held 14 officers hostage. Some were unharmed while others were stabbed, beaten and raped.

36 hours later the violence was over, but the emotional and physical scars would never heal.

In the thirty plus years since the riot occurred, the New Mexico Corrections Department has strived to address those issues that caused this tragedy and create a balance of social control and social support. Inmates must acknowledge that they are accountable for their actions, but we must ensure we offer them a chance for a better life. Lets be clear, the goal is to transition offenders who have been tax liabilities to contributing taxpayers, to take inmates with real world transferable skills and convert them into real world business owners who assist in the recovery of our economy, to cause offenders, who have previously selfishly exploited society, to confront the positive influence of service to the communities they formerly victimized.

We know that an good economy is intimately connected to the safety of its citizens. Success with our recidivism reduction and inmate programming ideas means a safer community and a better economy in the long run. The New Mexico Corrections Department runs 11 prisons housing approximately 7,000 inmates across the state and is in charge of supervising approximately 16,000 offenders on probation and parole. 96% of inmates in our custody will return to our communities. Of those, 46% will reoffend in 3 years. That's simply not good enough.

Conventional and historical thinking on the issue of crime and recidivism suggests that in the span of a sentence to prison, the government can remedy all the preexisting education, socio-economic and psychological causes that precedes the crime and felony conviction. This is because in the past, government has been unwilling to look outwardly for solutions and collaboration with others to create community centered collaboration for community center social problems. 
The Old Man reflects a paradigm shift for corrections paralleled only by the former shifts in law enforcement thinking that led to the community policing era. We are asking for your influence and partnership to ensure that changes made in an offenders life while in prison are meaningful, useful, and transferable to the real world. We want to create law abiding citizens who buy homes in good neighborhoods instead of breaking into them, who send their kids to college instead of continuing the cycle of dropping out of high school, who shop at local grocery stores or retail malls instead of stealing from them.

Rehabilitating offenders is intimately tied to the economy. Unlike a job or housing market report that can cause the markets to spike or dip on a moments notice, the rehabilitation of offenders is much less talked about, but I would argue just as important. Reducing our current recidivism rate by just 10% would save taxpayers more than $8 million dollars alone. On top of that, more than $40 million could be saved in victimization costs.

Think about the impact of that kind of money in the economy. These numbers are just a simple reflection of police, courts, prison and victimization costs. But these figures can't even begin to measure the boost to the economy that a productive, law abiding citizen adds to our state.

A drop in crime would in increase the public's feelings of security and safety. We know that when people feel safe they are more likely to spend money, invest, open new business, etc. Your partnership in the Old Main Revitalization project is really an agreement to make our community a better place where citizens are spending more money, including with your company.

So how do we reduce recidivism? Well, we know the two greatest factors to keeping offenders from reoffending is connection to family and employment.

The average inmate in NMCD's custody has less than a high school education and will now face a job market where they will be competing against non-felons for the same positions. We have taken a critical thinking approach to inmate programming and recidivism reduction. Inmates are now assessed for their inherent work and life skills and then are placed in programming to compliment those skills. We aren't just making smarter criminals, we are providing the tools and education to help offenders create their own business when they leave prison.

Giving an offender the tools to create their own business is essentially giving them a fresh start. Offenders will be more invested in the businesses success, will be more likely to give other offenders a hand up in the future and contribute to rebuilding our economy through the vital small business models that America was founded on.

With your partnership, we will use Old Main to create entrepreneurship opportunities for our inmates, educate the public about the corrections system and begin to take the burden off taxpayers to provide inmates programming.  The building itself provides maintenance, landscaping, electrical, and a variety of opportunities for inmates to learn transferable skills.

We know what caused the riot, and with your help, we can use Old Main to actually provide programming and opportunities that inmates in 1980 wanted. Imagine having an offender made meal in the mess hall. Sounds interesting to a visitor, but it's so much more. It's an opportunity to expand our culinary program, to teach offenders how to run their own restaurants, delis or even small scale food truck.

Or, would you like to get your hair cut by an inmate barber at the Old Main Barber Shop? A quick snip or trim would be a fun story for a visitor to share, but it will give our barber program a new avenue to get inmate barbers real world experience and interaction. When offenders leave prison it only takes $50 a year to keep their license valid, they can work as much as they like and be their own boss.

How about leaving the tour with an inmate made painting, hand carved oak bench or intricately crafted jewelry box? Our inmate hobby craft area will be a gift shop for visitors to buy inmate products. These inmates will be taxed on their sales, just like in a real business. Some of the money will go to victims organization, some back to that offender's children to support them and some will be put in a savings account for the offender to have when they leave prison. What is left will be used to buy their supplies and tools. This program will also have strict requirements; so much clear conduct, a written business plan, an outline of products to be offered. 

We need your partnership to put these visions into reality. There is a five year plan for the facility, but some of these project, like the Inmate Hobby Craft, will be up and running by next summer. The facility is old, it needs repairs and a rough estimate would run us into the millions. We have decided that taxpayer money will not be used for this project. Every dollar spent by visitors to tour the prison will go right back into the revitalization fund.

You may be wondering how much interest there really is to visit an old prison? The response we have had is almost overwhelming. Last year, for New Mexico's Centennial celebration, Secretary Gregg Marcantel opened the old prison for the first time for public tours. What was supposed to a once a month free public tour, booked up in a matter of days. The Secretary agreed to add a second day in the month, and again, those tours were full in a few days.

Last October, the New Mexico Corrections Department opened the facility again for public tours; what we called "Preview Tours" at $10 a ticket. These tours were scripted based on the Attorney General's report after the riot, news reports from the time and survivor accounts. We asked visitors for their feedback and the comments were enlightening and insightful. But, here was the most important part for us, visitors made it clear that they understood our mission, "Remembering our past to create a better future", and they agreed with our plans.

Remembering our past means respecting and honoring the officers and murdered inmates from that night. Remembering that the human spirit is indomitable and an over abundance of social control will only end in tragedy. Remembering that we have a responsibility to every person involved in that riot to never let it happen again. Creating a better future defines our attitudes toward out-of-the-box approaches to reducing recidivism.

We also used these tours to educate and interact with visitors about our prison system today. To often people think that sending someone to prison means they are locked up and forgotten about. That is simply not true; offenders just don't disappear into oblivion once the gavel comes down on their sentence. We have been able to use time on the tour to explain to visitors how often offenders will return to society, what we do to try and prepare them, and what part they play as law abiding citizens. It's only when we get people talking about what happens in prison and why we should care about educational and life skills programming for inmates that we break down the theoretical walls that have been built by society that tells them what happens to an offender after a guilty verdict isn't important.

Since our October tours have ended, we have received emails, phone calls and even facebook messages asking when tours will resume again. We have set a goal to host a dozen or so more tours in 2014. We will up ticket prices, between $15-$20, and will be offering more Saturday tours. For right now, our biggest hurdle is the roof. It needs to be replaced and we are currently working on creating a partnership that would allow our inmates to learn roofing skills, get real work experience by fixing Old Main, be certified at the end of the program and even be connected to potential employers through our partnership so they can obtain jobs when they leave prison.

Some of our other goals include: Renovating and opening other areas of the prison, such as the infirmary. Repainting and reconstructing some areas to look like they did in 1980. Restoring electricity to the facility.

These are separate from our inmate programming and opportunities goals but are naturally intertwined with each other. We will need you to make both work and when it does, a mark will be left on our prison system, our society and our state. This is a chance for us to reach out and ask for your help, and for you to take part in something that is truly innovating and inspiring.

If you would like to partner with our organization to sponsor renovations at the facility, a  monetary gift will be honored with a permanent Thank You brick carved by our offenders. We can work out logistics on how we can make it worth your donation.  Your organizations logo will also be displayed shown to visitors as one of our Penitentiary Partners. We have different levels of partnership:

A distinction as a White Stripe Partner comes after a monetary donation of $500 - this distinction comes with the Thank You carving in a standard brick size and your organizations name in a list of White Stripe Partners.

A distinction as a Silver Stripe Partner comes after a monetary donation of $1,500 - this distinction comes with the Thank You carving the width of two standard bricks and your organizations name in a list of Silver Stripe Partners.

A distinction as a Gold Stripe Partner comes after a monetary donation of $5,000 - this distinction comes with the Thank You carving the width of four standard bricks and your organizations name in a list of Gold Stripe Partners. Your organizations logo and name will be displayed on a banner to hang in the facility no less than one year.

A distinction as a Platinum Stripe Partner comes after a monetary donation of $10,000 - this distinction comes with the Thank You carving the width of four standard bricks and your organizations name in a list of Platinum Stripe Partners.  Your organizations logo and name will be displayed on a banner to hang in the facility no less than two years.

You decided to read this paper because in the beginning, you heard from a visionary. Now that you have heard our vision and how it deeply impacts you, I'd like to leave you with wisdom from another creative man who's visions have inspired children to dream and achieve.

"Unless someone like you comes around, things will never change."

Dr. Suess

Interested in getting a ticket to the Old Main Tours? Click Here


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Supervision Success Stories

Almost every day our Probation and Parole officers see addicts, career criminals and lifetime gang members that most of us would call "lost causes". We never give up on these offenders and continue to try and turn them from tax drainers into tax payers. We know our work pays off and we want you to know it too! That's why we have started a special series on Supervision Successes! Take a minute and watch Carlos' inspirational story of change.

Click here!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First Days are Always Full of Questions

There are things in life you can learn once and always remember, like how to ride a bike. Then there are days when I can't remember what I had for lunch! We know it's easy to forget some of the details and facts of our business, and we also know that having a quick reference can really help. So, to kick off the session we thought we would share some FAQ's with you about the New Mexico Corrections Department.


Did you know...


   The Corrections Department houses approximately 7,000 inmates in 11 facilities.


   96% of offenders in our custody will return to our neighborhoods one day.


   Currently, the department is housing 421 inmates that have been sentenced to life in prison. This means they have to serve 30 years before they are eligible for parole.


   The average age of lifer inmates is 45.


   There are currently no inmates assigned to the New Mexico Corrections Department that are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.


   The average inmate cost taxpayers $104 a day. Medical or high needs inmates cost on average about $124 a day.


   The Corrections Department has a goal to reduce the use of segregation, bringing the percentage of inmates held in segregation from 9.6% of its total population to 5%.


   We are reducing segregation by moving non-predatory gang member inmates into new population, using other discipline options such as loss of good time, and creating new programming to help inmates work together to provide new opportunities.


   The Corrections Department has an STIU division that works to stop the introduction of contraband into our facilities and tracing the contraband back to the streets.


   In 2012 officers confiscated 14 cell phones, more than 300 illegal drugs and just shy of 100 weapons.


   Currently there are 1,768 inmates in New Mexico prisons serving time for drug crimes.


   There are also 553 inmates serving time for DWI.


   The 43 Probation and Parole offices across the state serving approximately 17,000 offenders.


   A majority of offender contact is made outside the office at an offender's home or work


   Officers help offenders connect to educational, job skills, and life skill programming. We even have officers who go out of their way to make sure the children of offenders have coats in the winter, a backpack to head to school with, or a Christmas gift to open. These officers often provide these little gifts using money out of their own pockets.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beginning Blogger

Well, this is our first go at what we expect will be a behind the scenes look at some of the great work happening at the New Mexico Corrections Department!


To kick things off, we thought we would share this good news!

The New Mexico Corrections Department’s commitment to reducing the use of segregation, a setting where inmates live alone and do not participate in group events, has taken a large step forward with the first group of offenders being moved out of a segregation environment into a general population setting.


Recently, the department calculated that approximately 9.6% of the State's prison population is held in segregation environments. The department is aiming to reduce that to approximately 5% over the course of next year. Corrections has already taken steps to lower the number of inmates in segregation by moving inactive, non-predatory gang members out into a general population setting.


“We've made it clear that when you come to prison, you are going to be accountable for the crimes you have committed.  On the other hand, it's up to us as corrections professionals to understand that many of our inmates have the capacity to be accountable and grow from their circumstances,” Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel said. “So we are going to give non-predatory inmates a chance at new freedoms and opportunities to change.  With these new freedoms, they will now have a chance to hug their children or family members during visits and become better parents, spouses, and children themselves.  They will have a chance to participate in group education and life skills programming, to take part in hobby craft and other job training programs.”


“Let there be no doubt that these new privileges come with a clear understanding that these offenders must remain accountable.  Following the rules is simply not negotiable.  We have made it clear that we will maintain safe prisons and if these inmates choose to jeopardize that safety, they will have no one other than themselves to blame for the loss of these privileges.  This won't be a matter of the NMCD taking away an inmate's privileges, the inmate will be giving back the freedoms we have given them and want them to have." Marcantel said.


To start off 2014, 11 more inmates who had been assessed and identified as good candidates for the Restoration to Population program are being moved out of segregation over a 4 week process to acclimate them to life in general population again.


Since October of 2013, about 50 inmates have now been moved into a general population setting.