Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons does not directly manage any facilities in New Mexico, it oversees operations at the Correctional Institution in Cibola County. The Corrections Corporations of America manages day-to-day operations at CI Cibola County and is a private contractor to the BOP. In the latest population count in 2013, CI-Cibola County held 1,187 inmates.
New Mexico’s murder rate is the second highest in the country, and its violent crime rate is the fourth highest. To handle offenders in the state, the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMDC) oversees six state operated and five privately operated prisons.
The fasting growing category of inmates in the state is serious violent offenders.
In 2012, there were 4,490 correctional officers employed throughout New Mexico. The number of positions for correctional officers is expected to grow 5% nationally over the next several years.
Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in New Mexico
Federal Correctional Officer
In order to serve as a federal correctional officer, candidates must possess the following qualifications:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be between 20 and 37 years of age
- Have no serious misdemeanor or felony convictions
- Have no major debts
Federal correctional officers may join at the GS-5 or GS-6 levels. The educational and experience requirements for GS-5 positions are
- At least three years of full time experience in teaching, management, sales, counseling, or emergency response; or
- Possession of a bachelor’s degree
The minimum requirements for GS-6 officers are
- At least one year of full time experience in corrections, law enforcement, or mental health treatment; or
- At least 14 quarter hours of graduate classes in social science, criminology or law
Private contractors to the BOP may have slightly different requirements.
New Mexico Corrections Department (NMDC)
Since some prisons in New Mexico are operated by the NMCD and others are private, the requirements to become a corrections officer can vary depending on the employer. To become a correctional officer with the NMCD, prior experience is not necessary. The primary requirements for careers as correctional officers are:
- Being at least 18 years old
- Being a high school graduate or having a GED
- Being a citizen of the U.S.
- Not having the following convictions:
- Domestic violence
- Aggravated DWI
- Not having sold or distributed an illegal substance
Disqualifying factors include the following use of drugs:
- Marijuana or hashish with a year of applying
- Barbiturates, psilocybin, mushrooms, rave or designer drugs within 2 years of applying
- Speed, solvents, methamphetamine, PCP, LSD within 5 years of applying
- Opiates or heroin within 10 years of applying
- Steroids within 18 months of applying
- Over 5 times of experimental use of any controlled substance (besides marijuana) over one’s lifetime
Screening and Training to Become Correctional Officers in New Mexico
Federal Correctional Officers
New officers must complete 80 hours of orientation at their assigned correctional facility along with 120 hours of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy in Glynco, GA. This academic training will include
- Physical Abilities Testing with components of
- Dummy drag
- Run and cuff
- Climb and grasp
- Stair climb
- Obstacle course
New Mexico Corrections Department (NMDC)
Applicants who seek careers as correctional officers in New Mexico must pass entry screening tests that are held every Tuesday and Wednesday at the New Mexico Training Academy in Santa Fe. For the first day, they should wear exercise clothes, excluding shorts and tank tops. The first day involves:
- Physical agility test:
- Grip strength in each hand
- One mile run
- Psychological tests and interview
- Urinalysis and medical exam
- Polygraph exam
On the second day, candidates should be prepared for an interview and wear appropriate clothing.
Candidates who are selected undergo an eight week 320 hour training program at the NMCD Training Academy in Santa Fe to learn how to become correctional officers. This Academy is highly regarded and was chosen by the U.S. State Department as a model for international correctional officer training techniques.
Trainees live at the Academy during weekdays. Food and lodging is provided. After the trainees are finished with their training at the Academy, they are trained on the job for a day at their prospective facility.