Corrections Officer Jobs in New Mexico

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.

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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
    • Felony
    • 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

  • Self-defense
  • Firearms
  • Policies
  • Procedures
  • 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:
    • Push-ups
    • Sit-ups
    • 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.

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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.

Corrections Officer Salary in New Mexico

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition, that in 2012 the average corrections officer salary in New Mexico was $31,940. Correctional officers in the top ten percent, however, averaged 24% more, at $42,100.

The Classification & Pay Listing published by the New Mexico State Personnel Office includes the following correction officer salaries:

Correctional Officer & Jailer – A:

  • Minimum: $27,664
  • Midpoint: $38,418
  • Maximum: $49,171

Correctional Officer Lieutenant:

  • Minimum: $30,534
  • Midpoint: $42,432
  • Maximum: $54,309

Correctional Officer Captain:

  • Minimum: $34,050
  • Midpoint: $47,299
  • Maximum: $60,528

Correctional Officer Major:

  • Minimum: $43,056
  • Midpoint: $59,821
  • Maximum: $76,544

Correctional Unit Manager:

  • Minimum: $48,963
  • Midpoint: $68,016
  • Maximum: $87,048

Correctional Warden (Minimum Security):

  • Minimum: $55,931
  • Midpoint: $77,688
  • Maximum: $99,424

Correctional Deputy Warden (Maximum Security):

  • Minimum: $55,931
  • Midpoint: $77,688
  • Maximum: $99,424

Correctional Warden (Maximum Security):

  • Minimum: $64,272
  • Midpoint: $89,274
  • Maximum: $114,252

Here are some of the salaries among correctional officers in New Mexico according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Albuquerque NM
Farmington NM
Las Cruces NM
Eastern New Mexico nonmetropolitan area
Southwestern New Mexico nonmetropolitan area

Albuquerque, New Mexico Corrections Officer Job Description

The Uniform Crime Report for Bernalillo County indicated that 613 serious crimes per 100,000 residents took place in the county in 2013.  To deal with its offenders, the County operates the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), which is staffed by 332 correctional officers.

Located on a 155-acre parcel in Albuquerque, this facility is the 39th largest prison in the country. The MDC had room for 2,236 inmates in 2014 and can expand its capacity to house up to 5000 inmates as needed.

The correctional officers at the MCD directly supervise the inmates, enabling the officers to work on-on-one with them to diffuse any potential issues before they happen.  The jail is designed in a podular fashion that allows correctional officers to observe all inmate areas from a single location.

Steps to Becoming a Correctional Officer in Albuquerque

Bernalillo County comprehensively screens prospective correctional officers to ensure they hire only the highest quality candidates.  While some applicants have been correctional officers in other institutions and are applying for lateral transfers, many applicants do not have previous experience in this field.

Requirements – Although the education requirement for applicants is to have a high school education, the minimum qualifications include knowledge in the following areas:

  • Law enforcement
  • Criminal justice principles and practices
  • Correction and detention theory and practice
  • Modern booking procedures
  • Pertinent federal, state, and local laws

The MDC prefers applicants who have worked in corrections or law enforcement for a year.  Applicants who do not have that background can obtain the required knowledge by studying corrections or criminal justice at the college level.

Additional requirements include the following:

  • Having good hearing
  • Having vision that is no worse than:
    • 20/30 correction
    • 20/200 uncorrected
    • Possessing a valid New Mexico driver’s license

Selection Process – Becoming a correctional officer in Albuquerque starts with an application to the Bernalillo County Department of Human Resources.  The next step is to complete a Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ).  This will provide much of the information needed to carry out a background check.  Applicants must also provide supporting documentation to verify their identity at this time.

Promising candidates undergo a formal interview before a board.  After passing, the MDC initiates a comprehensive background check.  This includes:

  • Criminal history records
  • Employment verification
  • References:
    • Work
    • Personal

Physical agility testing standards were not in place as of April 2014, but this will soon be a test all applicants must pass.  Candidates will then undergo a physical examination and be tested for drugs and alcohol.

Training – New correctional officers and lateral transfer officers receive six weeks of training at the MDC’s Training Academy.  The training takes place on-site eight hours a day from Monday through Friday.  The trainees go home at night.

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After graduating from the academy, the correctional officers serve a probationary period.  All of these officers must pass a yearly physical agility test to show that they have remained fit for duty.

Grants, New Mexico Corrections Officer Job Description

Grants, New Mexico benefits greatly from several federal and state correctional facilities in the region.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons, in cooperation with the Corrections Corporations of America, operates the Cibola County Correctional Institution.  The New Mexico Corrections Department operates the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility as well as the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility.

The Cibola County Correctional Institution is a low security male facility with 1,129 beds.  In 2013, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported 1,166 inmates at this facility.  This facility is a private correctional facility that contracts with the BOP to house primarily undocumented immigrant inmates.  The CCA manages daily operations at the prison and has come under heavy criticism for poor treatment of prisoners.  In March of 2013, almost 500 inmates at the facility engaged in a peaceful demonstration for 12 hours in the recreation yard.

The New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility is a 661 bed facility also operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, although for the NM Corrections Department.  The facility houses inmates from security levels I to VI, comprising minimum to maximum custody.   The Western New Mexico Correctional Facility has a capacity of 440 and can house inmates from security level II up to level IV.

Training and Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in Grants, New Mexico

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)

The CCA supports correctional officer jobs in Grants, New Mexico.  This organization only hires candidates with the following qualifications:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Possession of a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Availability to work all shifts including weekends and holidays
  • Ability

Competition for CCA jobs may be quite high, so candidates who wish to optimize their chances at obtaining employment may wish to complete an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree program in corrections, criminal justice or psychology.  Candidates who have professional, volunteer or internship experience in offender supervision may also benefit during the hiring selection process.

Upon hiring, new CCA employees are required to complete an 80-hour orientation and training program that prepares new hires to become correctional officers in Grants. The topics covered include:

  • Organizational history and objectives
  • Facility procedures and policies
  • Emergency procedures
  • Job responsibilities
  • Institutional safety
  • Management of special offenders
  • Use of force
  • Defensive tactics
  • First aid and CPR
  • Legal issues

New officers also receive 40 hours of introductory on-the-job training through which they learn how to become correctional officers in New Mexico.  In subsequent years, correctional officers must receive at least 40 hours of training annually.

New Mexico Corrections Department

The New Mexico Corrections Department offers correctional officer jobs in Grants, New Mexico.  The minimum requirements for new officers are:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Pass a physical fitness test with these components
    • Grip strength
    • Sit ups
    • Push ups

New officers must attend the Corrections Training Academy’s 360 hour, ten-week program. Courses will include:

  • Physical conditioning
  • Defensive tactics
  • Firearms
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Ethics
  • Report writing
  • Search procedures
  • Stress management

Officers are required to annually re-qualify with firearms.

Las Cruces, New Mexico Corrections Officer Job Description

Las Cruces is the site of the Doña Ana County Detention Center.  It has two facilities—one for adults and one for juveniles.  The adult detention facility can hold 846 inmates ranging from those awaiting trial to offenders who have committed major crimes like assault and robbery.  This detention center also houses several hundred federal inmates.

Unlike traditional jails, the inmates are not separated from the correctional officers by bars.  Instead, the detention center uses glass partitions that allow the officers to continuously observe the inmates.  The facility features an advanced security system that uses touch-screen computer systems to open doors and communicate with inmates.

The Doña Ana County Detention Center has an additional facility for its juvenile offenders that can house 50 juveniles.  Most of those incarcerated are from Doña Ana County, but the facility also holds juveniles from other counties.  Two full-time teachers from the Las Cruces Public School District work there to ensure that the youths can maintain their education and earn credits toward graduation.

When fully staffed, 165 correctional officers work at the Doña Ana County Detention Center.  It strives to attract highly qualified candidates who are committed to their careers as correctional officers.

Becoming a Correctional Officer in Las Cruces

While Doña Ana County does not specify an educational level, there is a lot of competition for correctional officer jobs in the area.  Applicants with some college credits in corrections or criminal justice are likely to stand out in the application process.

Disqualifying Conditions – The following types of crimes will disqualify a candidate from being considered for correctional officer jobs:

  • Felony
  • Violent domestic incident
  • Crime of moral turpitude
  • The following drug crimes:
    • Use, sale, or distribution of an illegal drug
    • Use of cocaine within the last 3 years
    • Illegal use of marijuana within the past year

Correctional officers assigned to the transport unit cannot have had a DWI conviction within the past three years.

Applicants may also be disqualified for:

  • Dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military
  • Having stolen from an employer

Hiring Steps – The first step in the hiring process is a one-hour written test.  To be able to take this test, applicants must have submitted their application along with transcripts and copies of their diploma or degree(s).  The test will measure an applicant’s:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Usage of English
  • Vocabulary
  • Logic and reasoning
  • Basic math
  • Attention to detail

Candidates must score at least 70% to proceed with the following steps:

  • Oral board interview
  • Background check
    • Personal background
    • Criminal history
  • Polygraph and fingerprinting
  • Medical Examination/Physical agility assessment
  • Psychological evaluation
    • Written test
    • Interview

Doña Ana County will offer employment to candidates who pass all of these steps.

Training – Each new correctional officer will undergo seven weeks of training at the Basic Detention Officers’ Academy located at the detention center.  Training will include the following components:

  • Academics
  • Physical fitness
  • Control holds
  • Defensive tactics

Santa Fe, New Mexico Corrections Officer Job Description

Santa Fe is home to the state’s Penitentiary of New Mexico as well as the Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility.  Correctional officers in this state may find many job opportunities in coming years due to the high crime rate in the state; New Mexico is ranked fourth highest in the nation in terms of crime rate.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this to generate a 16 percent increase in the number of correction officer jobs available in New Mexico between 2008 and 2018.

State and County Correctional Facilities

The Penitentiary of New Mexico was originally erected in 1957.  In 1980, following a nationally publicized riot that caused the deaths of 33 inmates, state lawmakers authorized an $88 million re-design of the facility.  This facility currently houses male inmates in minimum security, high security and Supermax facilities.  The state’s death row is also found at this facility. Numerous changes were instituted in security procedures, medical treatment and inmate classification.

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The Santa Fe County Adult Correctional Facility is part of the Santa Fe County Corrections Department. The entire department consists of 320 staff supervising an average of 775 men, women and young offenders at the adult and youthful correctional programs.  In addition to supervising inmates confined to the jail, correctional officers are also managing offenders through the Electronic Monitoring Programs.  There are several rehabilitative programs offered at this facility including Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language and substance abuse education and counseling.

Becoming a Correctional Officer in Santa Fe, New Mexico

New Mexico Corrections Department

Correctional officer jobs in Santa Fe may be found with the New Mexico Correction Department.  The starting salary for new correctional officers is $26,000, but those officers assigned to the Penitentiary of New Mexico are provided a $3,000 annual bonus for a temporary period.  The minimum requirements for those interested in learning how to become a correctional officer in Santa Fe:

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Must have a high school diploma or GED
  • Must possess U.S. citizenship
  • No felony convictions
  • No domestic violence convictions
  • Ability to pass a drug test

New state correctional officers must attend the eight week basic training program held at the New Mexico Training Academy.  Prior to academy attendance, recruits must successfully pass a physical agility test that includes

  • Sit ups
  • Push ups
  • Grip strength

This physical test will also be administered prior to graduation from the academy with the added component of a 1.5 mile run.

Santa Fe County Corrections Department

Correctional officer jobs in Santa Fe may also be found with the Santa Fe County Corrections Department.  These jobs come with a starting salary of $27,390.  The minimum requirements for this job include:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be at least 18 years of age

New officers must attend a basic training program and complete on-the-job training prior to active duty.

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