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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov.-elect Susana Martinez has chosen the warden at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants to lead the state Department of Corrections.
If the nomination is confirmed by the state Senate, Lupe Martinez, 49, would become the first woman confirmed as a corrections secretary in New Mexico's history.
Lupe Martinez, no relation to the governor-elect, has 25 years of experience in the state Corrections Department. She began her career as a classification officer and worked her way up through the ranks, becoming warden at the Grants prison in August 2009.
The governor-elect said Monday she chose Martinez because of her understanding of the department "from one end to the other."
Lupe Martinez started in corrections as an intern while earning her college degree and said she fell in love with it.
"It has been a challenge and an adventure," she said.
She likes the work because "you always have to be on your toes. ... There is never a quiet day, and no day is the same as yesterday," she said.
Before becoming warden in Grants, she was warden of the Roswell Correctional Center from May 2008 to August 2009, a deputy warden in charge of various programs at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces from February 2003 to May 2008 and an associate warden of programs at the Las Cruces prison twice, from from July 1993 to June 1996 and from August 1999 to February 2003. She also was warden at the Fort Stanton Correctional Facility in 1999.
She also is president of the National Organization for Hispanics in Criminal Justice and president of the New Mexico Women in Corrections.
She earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and social work in 1985 from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
Lupe Martinez said the biggest challenge facing the department is the budget, but the first priority must be safety — "the safety of the public out here, our staff that works in the prison and of course, the inmates."
The governor-elect said her administration will not consider early release of inmates, noting the prison system is not overpopulated. New Mexico's prison population was 6,733 in August.
"We will look at every other avenue before doing anything about early releases," she said. "A judge has made a judgment, he has sentenced the individual to a particular sentence and we're committed to following through with that sentence."