Jail administrator says he’s pleased with community involvement

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Curry County Adult Detention Center Administrator Keith Norwood discusses his goals for the jail with area residents Thursday at a meet and greet held in the Curry County Commission room. Norwood was hired June 2.

Keith Norwood met with the public for the first time Thursday afternoon during a gathering hosted by the county to acquaint the public with the new jail administrator.

At times during the two-hour meet and greet, the commission room at the courthouse was packed with jail volunteers, residents and officials.

“It’s nice that the community came out and they want to participate,” Norwood said. “That made me feel good that they are concerned about the jail.”

Norwood said much of the input he received at Thursday’s event came from volunteer groups interested in continuing their programs at the jail.

Efforts are being made to get programs going strong again, and Norwood said he will begin inmate labor programs next week, such as cleaning in and around the facility and some painting projects, “to make sure the place looks clean and cared for.”

Norwood began in the position Monday, recently retired after 25 years with the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

It has been 10 months since the troubled facility has had an administrator, after County Manager Lance Pyle terminated Lois Bean in September.

Manny Romero, a loss prevention specialist and detention expert with the New Mexico Association of Counties, was also in attendance Thursday.

Romero said he has worked with Norwood in corrections since the early 1980s and recommended him for the position.

“I think that he is up to the job, based on his extensive background in corrections,” he said.

Romero said Norwood began his career as a detention officer and worked his way up to positions of command within facilities, a history which, “demonstrates leadership abilities in this field.”

Norwood’s familiarity and experience with corrections will lend itself well to Curry County’s efforts to have the jail accredited, he said.

Romero said the jail accreditation program, a new set of 220 professional detention standards being proffered by the NMAC, will standardize how jails are run within the state, something that has never existed.

“It’s a very good thing and a positive thing,” he said. The standardization, which will take two to three years to achieve, will cover everything from security to health services, administration, inmate programs and more.

The NMAC is prepared to help Curry County achieve accreditation, he said.

Romero chuckled when he spoke of Norwood coming out of retirement to take the position.

“He’s still young and has a lot of energy left,” he said. “He likes a challenge, and he knows it’s challenging.”

Norwood acknowledged he never truly retired and even though he left the state Department of Corrections this year, he has continued working.

“It’s all right to retire,” he said with a smile. “But just because you retire doesn’t mean you don’t have a purpose.”

Norwood was hired at a salary of $79,800, Pyle said.