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NM juvenile jails get tech upgrade

Security staff and those required to use a radio must now wear an earpiece so inmates can’t overhear conversations among employees

By Barron Jones
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Polo shirts, radio earpieces and an enhanced video system are among the changes at the state’s juvenile jails to increase safety and make the staff more professional.

Gov. Susana Martinez and Children, Youth and Families Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines on Tuesday announced the upgrades at the state’s eight juvenile jails. The improved video system will allow the jails to record and catalog surveillance footage for up to one year.

The upgrades came after a surprise visit by Martinez and Berumen-Deines last spring revealed several security issues at the J. Paul Taylor Center in Las Cruces and at the Youth Diagnostic and Development Center in Albuquerque, including a lack of uniforms for security staff.

“It should be a basic requirement that professional staff members at our juvenile facilities wear uniforms that identifies them as security officers,” Martinez said.

Also, security staff and those required to use a radio must now wear an earpiece so inmates can’t overhear conversations among employees.

Berumen-Deines said she hopes the changes will promote a professional atmosphere that will combat the department’s negative image.

In separate incidents last August: one YDDC youth care specialist was arrested for bringing a crack pipe to work, another worker with the same title was arrested and charged with three counts of criminal sexual contact and a YDDC case worker was arrested for having an underage party at her home.

“Our primary and foremost concern is safety for the clients and staff and all New Mexicans,” Martinez said.

The $800,000 camera upgrade will be paid with capital outlay funds, while the $37,000 for the earpieces and polo shirts came from the general CYFD budget, Berumen-Deines said.

“The most critical piece is to be able to retain the footage for a year,” she said, “so that if there is any question, if there is any delay or allegations being made, any investigation to be conducted, we will have a year worth of video to review.”

Copyright 2011 Albuquerque Journal