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NM jail to scan irises to verify inmates’ identities

Chief Greg Rees said the jail will soon start scanning the irises of all inmates as soon as they are booked into jail

By Ryan Boetel
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An inmate’s eyes will also soon be a key to the jail cell.

Metropolitan Detention Center Chief Greg Rees said the jail will soon start scanning the irises of all inmates as soon as they are booked into jail. Inmates will then have their eyes scanned again when leaving to make sure that the correct person is being released.

Rees said he decided to use the new technology after the jail mistakenly released the wrong inmate, who was posing as his cellmate, earlier this month.

“A wrongful release like this, one is enough,” Rees said in an interview. “If we don’t learn something from this, if we don’t change something from this, then the second one is our fault.”

Rees told the Detention Facility Management Board on Wednesday evening that he had decided to initiate the policy during the jail’s review of the inmate’s mistaken release.

Board member Rick Miera said it appeared to be a good step for the jail and inquired about using the same technology at the county’s juvenile detention center.

The county is in the procurement process for the scanning system. Rees said the equipment will cost the county less than $20,000 a year and the system could be up and running as early as next month.

Earlier this month, the jail released Duwin Perez-Cordova after he posed as his cellmate to trick corrections officers. He was wearing his cellmate’s wristband, which changed his identity. He had also groomed his facial hair into a mustache to resemble the cellmate and had memorized much of the cellmate’s personal information.

Perez-Cordova had been in jail since December on charges that included shooting at or from a motor vehicle and aggravated battery after authorities said he shot a person in the face in the 1600 block of Coors SW.

Edwin Sanchez, the cellmate, had been scheduled for release after serving a 364-day sentence for probation violations in two cases: a drunken-driving child abuse case and an aggravated assault on a police officer charge.

Rees said that during the release process, Perez-Cordova fooled corrections officers, people in the medical unit and people who return inmates’ property and money into thinking he was Sanchez. Hours after Perez-Cordova’s release, Sanchez told a corrections officer that his wristband was missing and he should have been released.

Sanchez has since been charged with assisting an escape and conspiracy, though a judge who reviewed aspects of the case found that there wasn’t probable cause that he committed a crime and released Sanchez. Charges against him are pending, authorities say.

Perez-Cordova remains on the run.

Rees said that as part of a continuing internal review of the mistake, he ordered all corrections officers involved in releasing inmates and supervisors to retake an eight-hour training course that corrections officers must pass. He also decided on using the scanners.

Rees said it does not appear that anyone employed at the jail helped Perez-Cordova escape.

“It’s our mistake. It happened on my watch, and we take responsibility for it,” Rees said of the mistaken release.

©2018 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)