Doña Ana County



Staff at the Doña Ana County Detention Center is celebrating National Correctional Workers' Week May 2-8. Traditionally, the first or second week in May is set aside nationally to honor those who work in the nation's prisons, correctional institutions, jails and detention centers.

According to Doña Ana County Detention Center Administrator Jeff Garbow, the local celebration will “provide a time to pay tribute to the dedicated people who have a very difficult job in effectively dealing with an extremely demanding and often dangerous segment of our society.”

Events planned locally, Garbow said, include: a staff picnic; family and retiree tours of the facility; a staff breakfast; various sporting events; and a banquet to conclude the weekly activities with a number of staff awards.

“We need to do a better job of educating the public as to what we do as correctional workers,” Garbow said. “The general public really has no idea as to what goes on behind these walls, and unfortunately, much of their misconceptions of prison life are informed by Hollywood, which notoriously slants its movies in the wrong direction, often portraying guards as witless buffoons or violent predators.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “The staff who work in our nation's prisons and locally at the Doña Ana County Detention Center are highly dedicated professionals whose collective primary concern is the protection of the public and the care and control of those in custody.”

Garbow said society has an attitude of “Lock 'em up and throw away the key,” which puts correctional officers in the position of tending to an ever-increasing prison population.

“Guess who has to deal with these misfits, knuckleheads and predators,” Garbow asked. “We as correctional workers have to, and we are proud that we can effectively do a job that few people would even consider.”

Garbow pointed out that most correctional officers work 12-hour shifts and perform a variety of jobs under stressful conditions. They often are called upon, he said, to break up fights between inmates or rival gangs, perform searches of inmates and cell units, practice crisis intervention and use verbal skills to deal with argumentative inmates or those who may be suicidal.

The Doña Ana County Detention Center has a capacity of 562 beds at present. When the expansion unit and medical services expansion is completed in November of 1999, Garbow said, the bed count will reach 810. That number includes federal as well as state inmates, males as well as females, and approximately 26 juveniles.

Plans are underway, Garbow said, to build a separate Juvenile Detention Center just southwest of the adult facility. Capacity for juveniles at that point will be 50 beds.