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New Los Alamos jailhouse rocks!

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Old police lobby closes down today

By Carol A. Clark

The lobby of the old jail closes permanently at 5 p.m. today. The new lobby entrance located several yards west opens to the public at 8 a.m. Thursday.

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Seventeen prisoners began filtering into the new jail this morning with the expectation all would be in their new cells by late afternoon.

Police Chief Wayne Torpy discussed the differences in the old and new detention facilities Monday during a media tour.

“We’re now compliant with industry standards,” Torpy said.

The new jail, including remodeling of the old police department and construction of the new Justice Center cost a total of $20 million. The jail addition encompasses 10,788 square feet.

Torpy described a number of cost saving measures created in the new facility. He explained the new jail is equipped with a number of security enhancements for moving prisoners around the facility without having to physically touch them.

“The goal is to have as minimal handling of prisoners as possible,” he said.

All doors are equipped with dual locks. Speakers, microphones and cameras are positioned throughout the facility to grant full access to a centralized control center.

The control center is enclosed with large windows and filled with computer monitors. Guards on duty are able to lock and unlock cells, section off areas and keep an eye on suicidal prisoners remotely without leaving the control center.

In the old jail, guards

manually opened each door and cell with keys. They walked down a long narrow hallway every

15 minutes to check on despondent inmates.

The old jail had just one shower, which meant prisoners were rotated through every two or three days. The new jail has five showers.

Food service had been problematic and costly. With no kitchen, meals were prepared by dietary staff at Los Alamos Medical Center and ran $5.30 each. Trips to local fast food restaurants were required when new prisoners arrived off schedule.

A kitchen in the new facility means meals can be prepared in house, bringing the cost down to $2.50 each, Torpy said.

The jail houses a variety of male and female inmates charged with crimes ranging from petty misdemeanors to violent felonies. Due to the small size of the old jail, inmates were housed together primarily based on compatibility and gender.

The larger new jail won’t have that issue, he said.

The detention facility offers volunteer inmate programs including Alcoholics Anonymous, anger management, jail-based drug rehabilitation, Christian church services and correspondence bible studies.

The new jail will provide GED classes as well. Inmates can study in the new library. The day area for inmates is much larger and provides natural light.

There also is a fitness room and an enclosed area with natural light and a basketball hoop.

Once construction on the Justice Center to the east of the police department is completed, inmates will be escorted along an interior hallway to their court hearings. As it has been, inmates were walked outside to the former Municipal Building, driven over to Magistrate Court or transported to Santa Fe District.

The jail employs six full-time detention officers. Mary Najar is the administrative captain in charge.

The average daily inmate population is about 12 inmates per day. Lengths of incarceration vary based on the offense. An inmate may be sentenced for a maximum period of 364 days.