Curry County hires new jail administrator

Keith Norwood of Belen is the new administrator of the Curry County jail.

Norwood’s appointment was announced late Wednesday by County Manager Lance Pyle.

Norwood has 25 years experience with the New Mexico Department of Corrections. He retired in December as the deputy bureau chief of internal audits, standards and compliance, according to his resume.

“I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. With community support and team work, I am confident we will be able to operate a safe and secure detention facility,” Norwood was quoted in a press release from the county.

Norwood is scheduled to begin Monday.

Norwood replaces Lois Bean, who was fired in December after Pyle said she failed to make changes as directed.

According to a press release from the county, Norwood has served as warden and deputy warden of a minimum custody institution.

He also assisted Roswell Correctional Center through the process of becoming accredited by the American Correctional Association.

Pyle has said Curry County plans to seek accreditation for the jail, beginning in July, through a new program offered by the New Mexico Association of Counties.

Sheriff Matt Murray relinquished command of the jail effective Tuesday. Murray said he was returning command of the jail because the county failed to provide the resources he needed to keep the facility secure.

“I am very excited to have Mr. Norwood join the County Management team; his vast experience will serve as an asset to residents of Curry County and will advance the Detention Center to new levels of professionalism, security, sanitation and safety,” Pyle said in the release.

Norwood was selected from a pool of three candidates, which included Interim Administrator Kirk Roberts.

The detention center has been fraught with problems in recent years from escapes to mistaken releases and arrests of detention officers.

The most notable incident was the August 2008 escape of eight inmates — convicted child-killer Edward Salas remains at large.

The attempted escape Feb. 21 of four inmates prompted the resignation of Interim Administrator Carlos Ortiz and several members of his command staff, leading to Murray assuming command of the facility under emergency conditions.

Pyle noted in the release, “it is going to be a challenge, but Mr. Norwood has the qualifications and experience to get the job done.”

The county is hosting a meet-and-greet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 10 in the Commission Room at the courthouse, to give residents an opportunity to meet Norwood, the release said.