Roswell’s Police Chief Alfonso Solis gave his impressions of his first two weeks at his interim position as New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Corrections.
He said, “It’s a process.” Solis referred to the job as both interesting and challenging.
“I went to the first Cabinet meeting this Monday. I was impressed with the governor and her Chief of Staff Keith Gardner. She is very much in charge,” Solis said.
One of his primary duties in Santa Fe is helping to find his replacement, the next Cabinet Secretary for Corrections.
“We’ve been soliciting and looking for qualified people. We have advertised nationwide.”
Daily, Solis participates in a video conference with all the wardens from the various correctional facilities across the state.
Solis said a number of them have acting wardens, and the department is actively looking for new personnel to fill this gap. “We are screening them and interviewing candidates now.”
Manpower is a priority. “There’s been a hiring freeze, but the governor has given us the go ahead to start hiring….
Outside of management, we have approximately 150 positions to fill,” said Solis.
However, he added, “Let me reassure the public. People don’t need to worry. You have good people up there. The security of the facility and the safety of the public is paramount.”
The interim secretary acknowledged that the department is working on budget projections which will be submitted in the form of a supplemental request to the Legislature to make up for any budgetary shortfalls.
Another challenge for the department is repair and facility upgrades. “We have capital outlay issues, usually of the maintenance type. Much as we had here when I was working at the detention center,” Solis said.
He emphasized that there were a lot of positive things going on in the correctional facilities that people often do not hear about. “We have a dog program at Grants Women’s Correctional Facility where the prisoners adopt a dog and train them — teach the basics. This makes the dogs more acceptable and ready for adoption by the public.“ It is “good for the women and the humane thing to do for the dogs.” he said.
Joyce Oswald, public information officer at Grants said, “It is called the Heeling Hearts program and it has met with good response from both prisoners and the public.”
Overall, Solis said, “I am proud of the men and women of the Department of Corrections. I’m proud of the governor. It’s an honor to be asked to serve with her….”
Still, he concluded, “I’m anxious to return. I miss Roswell and I want to come home.”