New Mexico town nixes plan to consolidate sex offenders in a nearby private prison

Major changes in prison population require community cooperation

Written by Beryl Lipton
Edited by JPat Brown

At the end of 2015, the State of New Mexico was interested in consolidating one of its most problematic populations: sexual offenders.

A rather broad category of criminal, sex offenders carry their stigma well into their return to the civilian world - should they make it there. They’re one of the few groups that can be detained at times indefinitely.

The prospect of a population with no expiration or turn-over date can be an appealing one to private prison companies, which, for business reasons, tend to prefer a well-defined, stagnant group. And for the New Mexico Correctional Department, which was looking to hire Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic) for the job, the appeal was also a practical one; sexual offenders are often singled out for violence by other inmates, and keeping them all separate can help reduce the chances of that happening.

However, it takes a special type of community to quietly accept an influx of registered sex offenders, and when Grants, New Mexico heard that they might be on the receiving end of a reorganized contract with the NM Corrections Department, they were not prepared to simply go along.

A release made by the City of Grants, New Mexico included a letter from the Department of Corrections letting Mayor Martin Hicks know that after the comments of his constituents were evaluated, the prison would no longer be the new home of the state’s sex offender population. As the Secretary of Corrections wrote, “Community acceptance and cooperation are vital ingredients for successful correctional operations.”

The same is true whether the question is a new prison population, a new prison operator, or a new prison altogether, and the displeasure of the people of Grants was enough to keep the majority of sex offender population where it was at the Otero County Prison Facility, a private facility run by Management and Training Corporation.

We’re still waiting on a release of other comments and communications collected during the discussion.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you. Have you been on the almost-receiving end of a correctional change in your community? Let us know at info@muckrock.com.

Read the full letter embedded below, or on the request page:


Image via Wikimedia Commons