New Mexico Detention Center Renovations Remain on Schedule

By CN Staff

BERNALILLO, New Mexico—Renovations and additions to the Sandoval County Detention Center in Bernalillo, New Mexico remain on budget and on schedule for completion by May 2021.

The additions are being paid for from a $5.1 million gross receipts tax increase that was approved by the County Commission last year.

“We had cells with broken doors,” Sandoval County Detention Director Gilbert Armendariz told KRQE. “We had blind spots through the facility [and] we did not have perimeter fencing.”

Upgrades include a video visitation center and new cameras with 360-degree view capabilities.

According to the Rio Rancho Observer, one of the newest improvements is a body scanner that detention officers will start using to check people going into secure areas.

“There’s always a worry of unauthorized items entering the facility,” said Armendariz during a Sandoval County Commission meeting in December.

The body scanner is expected to do a superior job of detecting unauthorized items over the metal detector it is replacing. A recently acquired X-ray scanner will also be brought into the jail soon.

Armendariz also told local media that officers now use a biometric scan to get keys, and the system emails him or the deputy director if a key is not returned.

Workers are replacing cell doors, some of which previously wouldn’t close, and fixing plumbing issues. Armendariz hopes three pods will be completed by late February so that workers can begin on the next three. CML Construction is the general contractor. B&D Plumbing is also working on this project.

Additionally, the facility also has a new perimeter fence and key-card access points. The 120 new hand-held radios and radio repeater have increased safety. The system includes “officer down” buttons in case an inmate becomes violent and a guard needs help, said Armendariz.

The floors have also been changed to cleaner, low-maintenance polished concrete, and the directors are working to get an emergency generator.

“The officers there, they appreciate it,” Armendariz said of the work.

Sandoval County Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald said renovations cost double or triple what they would have if the detention center had been maintained over the last 30 years. He said previous leaders had let it deteriorate and that “we cannot do that again.”

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block added that the renovations improve morale, as well as safety for officers, inmates and the public.

The renovations are expected to be completed by May 2021.