County jail seeks accreditation

The Sandoval County Detention Center undergoes renovations March 5. Amy Byres photo.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — As Sandoval County Detention Center undergoes renovations, it becomes more qualified to receive accreditation from the New Mexico Counties nonprofit for the first time.

Jail Director Gilbert Armendariz applied for the accreditation and awaits review from the NMC board in May. He said he sees no reason why the application wouldn’t be accepted.

“The detention center has improved immensely, which is why we are at the point to be approved,” Armendariz said.

If the jail receives accreditation, it could result in lower insurance premiums, he said. The county does not know yet how much money could be saved in premiums, Armendariz said.

The application fee was $3,500.

He said receiving accreditation is a testament to the detention center’s standards.

“So that is a big deal for any jail, but in particular for a detention center, because you can hang an accreditation on a wall and say it is a smooth-running machine,” he said.

NMC insures most detention centers in New Mexico. While reviewing for accreditation, NMC will evaluate the jail based on 126 standards regarding the jail’s, administrative work, facilities, the health of inmates and safety standards.

Armendariz said the detention center’s renovations have played a large role in possible accreditation.

Seven pods are being renovated, with two pods 90 percent done. Renovations are a year from being completed.

Cameras at the detention center were replaced with 360-degree high-definition high-quality cameras, and 80 additional cameras will be installed Monday.

“We used to have analog cameras that were fixed, so the quality for us and the ability for us to save and keep evidence is a lot better for the facility,” said Assistant Director Chris Urbanic.

Urbanic has been working at the detention center for 13 years. He said one of the most significant improvements added to the jail was a body scanner.

“I can tell you that the body scanner has been huge. I think that it is a deterrent for contraband entering the facilities,” he said.

He said the next accreditation the detention center will work toward is an American Correctional Accreditation that has 300 standards and 50 mandatory standards, which the jail cannot fail in order to receive accreditation.