Official: Jail bookings down since stay-at-home order
March 29, 2020
CLOVIS — Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.
You’ve probably watched an old movie, maybe in black-and-white, where a prisoner was singing that line, perhaps with some accompaniment on the harmonica.
These days, it’s a fitting line for the world as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ironically, though, real-life prisoners may know a bit less trouble lately than those on the outside.
Think about it. The coronavirus is spreading through social interaction, especially in large crowds. The best way to contain it is to isolate, isolate, isolate.
Kind of like jail, no?
Mark Gallegos, Curry County Adult Detention Center administrator, recognizes that while incarceration may be an unfortunate circumstance, it is a way to isolate people, hopefully containing and preventing the virus.
“I think the key thing is we’re able to control the (jail) population ,” Gallegos said Friday. “Versus like us going to Walmart; I don’t know who’s been in Walmart. As opposed to (the jail) being a controlled environment.”
Aiming to further control the prison environment is Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home order for New Mexico, issued last Monday afternoon.
People staying out of jail in the first place is a good way to control the prison population, and there are less people out on the street due to the stay-at-home order.
Gallegos noted that the order seems to have made a difference. “The bookings are slowing down as well,” he said.
To further control the prison population nationwide, some in major cities like Los Angeles are releasing hundreds of detainees. That part in Curry Country is not up to Gallegos.
“Our job is the condition of confinement,” he said, “so whenever the court and the attorneys and the public defenders get with the judges, the judges will have the final decision on the releases.”
And they have already been working some of that out, according to Gallegos, who said the Curry County Detention Center population, normally around 200, was at 156 on Friday afternoon.
As for further containment of the virus, Gallegos said the Clovis detention center is currently not taking any out-of-town transfers of detainees.
“If a person has a warrant and they’re in another area outside of Curry County, we’re working with the courts to minimize that individual not coming back in our county, to have them remain in their jail to reduce their exposure,” Gallegos said.
As for the detainees who were already in the Curry County Detention Center and have not yet been released, precautions are being taken.
“What we’re doing is, any time a detainee goes out of the facility and comes back in, we’re taking their temperatures,” Gallegos said.
Same goes for detention center staff.
“Oh yeah,” Gallegos said. “When they come on (duty) and when they leave.”
Aside from that, there are precautionary steps such as video court appearances, attorneys dealing with inmates by phone, and no visitors to inmates allowed.
Detention center staff and the detainees are being proactive too, sanitizing the jail. Detainees were already responsible for their pods, having to meet a mandatory standard that hasn’t changed. Gallegos said they are now being provided with extra chemicals to sanitize against COVID-19.
There is also the usual cleaning and spraying and wiping down of surfaces and door handles that has been evident just about everywhere you go lately.
“We’re just making sure we’re following through with keeping the facility clean,” Gallegos said. “Both the staff and detainees are well-educated on what needs to happen, and they’re making it happen with the direct supervision of our sanitation program.”
Detainees’ meal routines have also been affected by virus prevention awareness, with food service being shuttled down to the detainees’ pods.
“They eat inside the pods at their assigned tables,” Gallegos said. “What we’re trying to do is prevent cross-contamination. That’s the key word — cross-contamination.”
And thankfully, the steps are working well so far. As of Friday there were no positive cases with regard to any Clovis detention center detainees or staff.
“Our staff is doing an amazing job,” Gallegos said, “and also the detainees as well.
“So far, so good.”